Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, contesting the Australian Open final on Sunday, are both members of the so-called “Big Four” of men’s tennis, the group which has dominated Grand Slam titles for most of the past decade led by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
At the Australian Open, the gulf between Djokovic and Murray is wide _ the No. 1-ranked Djokovic has won the title each of the four times he has reached the championship match, while Murray has lost all three of his finals at Melbourne Park.
Two of those losses final were to Djokovic _ in 2011 and 2013. Overall, Djokovic has a 15-8 edge in career matches.
In the mixed doubles final which will precede the men’s title match, five-time Grand Slam singles winner Martina Hingis and Leander Paes of India will play Kristina Mladenovic of France and Daniel Nestor of Canada.
Here are some things to watch in the men’s final Sunday:
POTENTIAL RANKINGS: Order has been restored in the Big Four with Murray reaching the final. He could go to No. 3, supplanting Nadal, if he wins. He was No. 6 when the tournament began. Djokovic will remain at No.1 and Federer at No. 2. “There was naturally a lot of talk about the change of generation, new players coming in … that the four guys that you’re referring to will not be the top four anymore,” says seven-time major winner Djokovic. “So I still think that (these) four guys still have the best chances to win all the Grand Slam titles.”
GETTING THERE: Djokovic didn’t drop a set through his first five matches, beating the likes of Fernando Verdasco, Gilles Muller and Milos Raonic before needing five sets to beat defending champion Stan Wawrinka in the semifinals. Murray had a tough four-setter in beating Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round, defeated local hope Nick Kyrgios in the quarterfinals and then played his best match of the tournament by beating Tomas Berdych in an acrimonious four-set semifinal. Murray’s former coach is now working with Berdych and things got of hand on several occasions on the court and off when Murray’s fiancée, Kim Sears, was shown on TV apparently uttering profanities.
NOVAK SPEAKS: On his domination of Murray: “The record I have in finals here in Australia can serve maybe as a slight mental edge, but not much. I don’t think he’s going to feel that on the court. I’m sure he’s going to be very motivated to win his first title here. I’m going to, of course, give my best that that doesn’t happen.”
On his friendship with Murray: “I’ve known him for a long time, so it’s great we are able to challenge each other now in another Grand Slam final. The fact we know each other since 11, 12, there is only a week difference between us,” in age.
On what he expects from Murray in the final: “He goes for his shots, he’s one of the best defenders in the game … an incredible counter-puncher. I think if he serves well, that’s a huge confidence boost and advantage for him.”
ANDY SPEAKS: On the Djokovic-Wawrinka semifinal: “I didn’t watch any of the match last night, but I’m going to watch the parts of the match that I want to watch this evening, get all of the stats that I think will be beneficial and go over it. But I didn’t really want to sit for 3 or 3-12 hours last night worrying about the match.”
On talking down his chances: “I know it’s going to be extremely difficult to win the match. I know if I want to win, it will probably be very, very tough and challenging physically. He obviously loves the court and the conditions. And, yeah, it would be a big upset if I manage to win tomorrow.”
On a more positive note: “I feel like I’m playing well again. Obviously anytime you’re moving up the rankings suggests you’re doing something well. Hopefully … I can try and have some consistent, solid results, re-establish myself back at the top of the game, and have another good year.”