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Men's Final Match Analysis & Picks

Men's Final Match Analysis & Picks

Men's Final Match Analysis & Picks
By Ricky Dimon


The rivalries in men's tennis are at an all-time high right now, but the rest of the tour seems almost powerless to stop Grand Slam finals from being playgrounds for the Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal rivalry. Djokovic and Nadal will battle in a third consecutive major final match when they collide at the Australian Open Sunday.

Nadal leads the overall series 16-13, but this head-to-head matchup has been one-way traffic recently. They faced each other six times last year - all in finals - and Djokovic won all six. He won on hard courts (Indian Wells, Miami, U.S. Open). He won on clay (Madrid and Rome). He won on grass (Wimbledon). He won everywhere, and shattered Nadal's confidence (by Nadal's own admission) in the process.

Djokovic-Nadal XXX should not disappoint, as both men are in stellar form and coming off thrilling semifinal wins. After a trio of incredibly easy straight-set wins, Djokovic ousted Lleyton Hewitt in four, got past David Ferrer in three, then survived Andy Murray 6-3, 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-1, 7-5 in an epic semifinal that lasted four hours and 50 minutes. Nadal has dropped only two sets this entire fortnight and in each of those matches, (against Tomas Berdych and Roger Federer) he stormed back from a one-set deficit to prevail in four.

Nadal has the edge in two departments, which should allow him to make this one even more competitive than their 2011 clashes. One, this hard court has been playing very slow throughout the tournament. It is nothing like the U.S. Open surface, on which Djokovic beat Nadal in four sets last summer. Second, Nadal will have a physical advantage. His semi with Federer was not as long or as physical as Djokovic's with Murray. Plus, the Spaniard has an extra day of rest.

Mentally, however, the nod goes to Djokovic in a major way. Six straight losses won't easily be erased from Nadal's mind.

"I know that I maybe have a mental edge because I've won six finals the six times we played in 2011 and I've had lots of success against him," Djokovic said on Friday.

This one has thriller written all over it. Five sets should be expected, and even a tight four-setter with one or two tiebreakers should push this over the game total of 39.5 games.

As for the outcome, Djokovic has been the pick from the beginning. While he has not been quite as dominant in Melbourne as he was at times last season, there is no reason to change the pick now. Djokovic to win outright at -150 is not bad value and Djokovic in four sets at +300 is an enticing play.

Nadal's best chance is to wear his opponent down and keep him out there for four or five hours, so a five-set upset win is not out of the question. Nadal supporters would not be wrong to tip their man for a 3-2 victory at +500 odds.

Pick: Over 39.5 games (-120)

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