Novak Djokovic vs. Stanislas Wawrinka
This should be good. In 2013, Novak fended off Stan in an electric 5 set encounter. They repeated this level of play at the 2013 US Open with Djokovic again winning in 5 sets. Last year, Wawrinka gained the upper hand dethroning Djokovic in 5 thrilling sets. All the more remarkable was the fact that Djokovic had won 3 consecutive Australian Open titles. So the defending champion plays the world #1 who has won this title 4 times. Djokovic has won 4 of the 7 Australian Opens held on plexicushion. Stan is coming off of a Davis Cup triumph for Switzerland and a tune-up title. Each man has momentum and good feelings about Rod Laver Arena.
Stan’s game is one of hitting through his opponent and pushing his opponent backwards. His serve and ground strokes are heavy. Novak is such a good counter-puncher that he generally finds a way to steal a few points and eventually break down his opponent through a great return of serve and attacking weaknesses. Stan, when he troubles Nole, hits through him enough to keep the Serbian on the defensive throughout most of the match. Novak is a great defensive player, but few players like to be on the defensive for a majority of a match. Novak clobbered Stan last November in London at the World Tour Finals. I think Novak’s serve, a good shot, was even more dangerous on an indoor court. If Stan can return well enough to make Novak work when he holds, it will put the match on more even footing. That gets me to the key factor in this match. I think Novak’s return of serve at some point will make the difference. Novak will likely break serve often enough to climb back into a set in which he is troubled or to run away with a competitive set. Are we ready for another Murray-Djokovic Australian Open final?
My Prediction: Novak Djokovic d. Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4
Beyond all of that, Novak has finished 3 of the past 4 years as the #1 ranked player in the world. A tournament win in Melbourne would give him the first building block for another #1 campaign. Djokovic’s all-time status grew with his titles in Paris and London to close out last year, but an 8th Grand Slam title would keep Novak’s all-time stature growing.