Australian Open final expert picks: Djokovic vs. Murray

The Grandstand welcomes a three-team panel to make its picks for Sunday night’s marquee final between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (3) Andy Murray

Ricky: There will never be another rivalry quite like Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal. Never. But Djokovic vs. Murray is the best one going right now and unbiased observers could not have asked for anything more in the Australian Open final. They have faced each other 17 times in their careers and the last few have not disappointed in any way shape or form. In a pair of 2012 Grand Slam meetings, Djokovic won a five-setter in the Melbourne semis and Murray prevailed in another five-setter to win the U.S. Open. Judging from current form, this one may feature even better quality and it could be just as competitive. Djokovic (who had to survive the best match of Stanislas Wawrinka’s career) has dropped only three sets and Murray (albeit with a simpler draw) has surrendered just two–both to Roger Federer). Djokovic has a slight edge in form, a considerable edge in experience (five slam titles, including three Down Under), and a big edge in his fuel tank (a semifinal that lasted two and a half hours shorter plus an extra day of rest). Still, this new and improved Murray–dating back to last summer–can keep it close. Djokovic 6-2, 6-7(6), 7-5, 7-6(5).

Steen (Tennis East Coast): Djokovic recovered from a temporary speed-bump against Wawrinka to look dominant and at his top level against Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer, neither of whom are slouch players. He is both fit and skillful, serving, returning and moving well as he looks to repeat as AO champion. Murray, meanwhile, got over a big, big test in five sets against Federer–showing mind, mettle, great defense, excellent ball retrieval and quality serving. This was after he beat up on a weak slate to reach the semis. Really, these are two guys at the top of their games right now and both honestly deserve to win this thing. That being said, I’ve got to stick with Novak here; he hasn’t shown weakness after the Wawrinka match and also has an extra day of rest, while Murray is coming off a five-setter that wasn’t that grueling but will still take a bit out of him. Murray did beat Djokovic at the USO, but the conditions were a factor that likely will not come into play in Melbourne. I’ll take Djokovic to get him back and repeat as champ in four competitive sets full of highlights. Djokovic 6-4, 5-7, 7-6, 6-4.

Adrin (@Chalk_Flew_Up): Here we go again: Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are meeting in a Grand Slam final in a second consecutive major, and again on a hard court. Both play such similar games, with impenetrable defense, suffocating court coverage, and indefatigable fitness. The intangibles are what separated these two for the longest time, but with Ivan Lendl in Murray’s camp, the gap has been shrinking. So who will win the first major of the year? Coming into the final, both have been pushed to five sets just once (Djokovic by Wawrinka and Murray by Federer). But it is Djokovic who has gotten progressively better since surviving the round of 16, playing one of the best matches of his career in dismissing Ferrer in the semifinals. Andy had a far easier path until the semifinals, and despite going to five sets, the win over Federer wasn’t as close as the scoreline suggested. Djokovic also has a valuable extra day of rest (although interestingly, those who played the second semifinal have won four of the last five Australian Opens). There is no court that Djokovic feels more comfortable on than Rod Laver Arena, and he has never lost past the quarterfinal stage at the Australian Open. It is hard to bet against the two-time defending champion. Djokovic 7-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Kelli (Tennistalk): Fans can expect a competitive match from the two most dominant players of the moment. Murray came away with the victory last time they met in a Grand Slam, and he could pull off another win if he serves well and remains aggressive. Both players are terrific returners and defenders, so there is little to choose between them. Experience goes to Djokovic, who repeatedly plays his best tennis at the Australian Open. Djokovic 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-2.

Cheryl (Tennistalk): Welcome to the new Federer vs. Nadal, except with ever-so-slightly less marketability (at least at this point). Get used to this matchup; you’re going to be seeing it a lot more often. The numbers support Djokovic in this one. The Serb leads the head-to-head series 10-7 and he won their last two meetings. Still, there is cause for hope from the Murray camp. First and foremost, Muzz has the upper hand in their two most recent BIG matches, meaning he nipped Djokovic at the Olympics (admittedly on Djokovic’s least favorite surface) and again at the U.S. Open (surely the more impressive feat of the two). And somehow I feel like losses in Shanghai and at the World Tour Finals to Djokovic aren’t going to do much to dent the Scot’s confidence. I expect a barnstormer of a match with Murray just edging out Djokovic in the end. Murray 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 6-7(5), 8-6.

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