Australian Open SF preview and pick: Djokovic vs. Wawrinka

Djoker wins 2The rematch of the rematch is upon us. Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka will be facing each other in a third consecutive Australian Open when they collide during semifinal action Friday. The winner will battle either Andy Murray or Tomas Berdych for the title.

Heading into Friday’s Australian Open semifinal, the head-to-head series between Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka is such that the matchup cannot really be called a rivalry. But at this particular tournament, it’s right up there with Ali vs. Frazier, or Duke vs. North Carolina, or Red Sox vs. Yankees.

In the fourth round two years ago, Djokovic outlasted Wawrinka 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(5), 12-10 in an epic thriller that was widely regarded as the best match of the year. If the quarterfinal rematch 12 months later did not quite produce the same quality, it still more than lived up to the hype. That time around it was Wawrinka who emerged victorious, upsetting the Serb 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7 en route to his first-ever Grand Slam title.

Overall, though, Djokovic boasts a record of 16-3 at the expense of his familiar foe. They have squared off 13 times on hard courts, with Djokovic holding an 11-2 edge in those meetings. The world No. 1 has won three of their four Grand Slam encounters, having also prevailed at the U.S. Open in both 2012 (via third-set retirement) and 2013 (in five sets).

While generally stellar at most other tournaments, it is almost as if Djokovic and Wawrinka reach another gear Down Under. Djokovic is already a four-time champion of this event and he has been so far above his competition this fortnight that he has not exactly been required to showcase his ‘A’ game. The top seed booked his spot in the last four without dropping a set as he disposed of Aljaz Bedene, Andrey Kuznetsov, Fernando Verdasco, Gilles Muller, and Milos Raonic.

Wawrinka was uninspiring in victories over Marsel Ilhan, Marius Copil, Jarkko Nieminen, and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, but a steep step up in competition level seemed to be just what the doctor ordered on Wednesday. The fourth-ranked Swiss avenged a five-set quarterfinal loss at the 2014 U.S. Open by overwhelming Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(6). Against Nishikori, Wawrinka fired 20 aces, held 15 of 16 service games, and finished +12 in the winners-to-errors department.

“I think for sure it will be funny to play him again,” the defending champ said of Djokovic. “I will be happy to play him three straight years in a row. We had some crazy [matches] in the Grand Slams in the past. When you play Novak, especially in (the) semifinals in a Grand Slam, you have to play your best game. You have to play your best tennis if you want to push him. So far I’m playing great.”

Djokovic will force Wawrinka to play even better in this one. Whereas only one of Wawrinka’s first five opponents is known for playing great defense and consistent offense at the same time, Djokovic is arguably the best in the business in both departments. The top seed can use his athletic defensive abilities to withstand Wawrinka’s barrages of power and he has committed a combined total of just 33 unforced errors in his last two matches.

Another epic is possible, but it might be too much to ask.

Pick: Djokovic in 4

11 Comments on Australian Open SF preview and pick: Djokovic vs. Wawrinka

  1. I think Muzza is back to his pre-op form, which is a good thing. If that is indeed the case, he has the game to beat Djokovic.

    My only concern regarding Muzza is his mental strength. Until proven otherwise, I would say Djokovic has the edge in that department.

    Muzza showed he can still be distracted in his match against Berdy. I worry about that. Djokovic also is susceptible to distractions. I just think this is an area Muzza needs to tighten up.

  2. I think Murray has more sides to his game and it’s more colourful and exciting to watch. Djoker’s game is high quality monochrome and too mechanical for my liking. Muzz is hungry and is not going to lose focus at all. At least that’s what I hope.

  3. @NNY, I don’t think I have discredited Muzz anywhere. I said that he and Novak have been on par with their game.
    I have seen almost all the matches of Nole and Muzz. Almost all elements of their game are clicking. One odd match against Wawa doesn’t change much of his overnight form. (Remember Nole’s Wimbledon campaign last year. He struggled through till the Final and then put up a clinical performance in the Final. If he can do that after a fortnight of struggle, he can definitely do so when he is playing well in a fortnight)
    Muzz too struggled against Dimitrov (the quality of tennis was pretty high in that match) because his opponent was a good mover and aggressive too.

    The match looks well balanced to me. The thing is, Murray breaks down other players with his defense. Against Nole, that wouldn’t work. He will have to put a lot more effort on his 2nd serves and FH. Aggressive Muzz is a treat to watch. The only part in which he is better than Nole is his net play. Hope that he brings it to the fore!

    • “(Remember Nole’s Wimbledon campaign last year. He struggled through till the Final and then put up a clinical performance in the Final.”

      Clinical? I must have watched a different match. I remember a Novak who struggled to put away a clearly tiring Federer. If THIS Muzza had played THAT Nole in the Wimby final, Muzza would have won.

      But as Rafa says, there is no”if” in sport………….

      • He did tightened up while serving for the match. Other than that for the 1st 3 sets and a half as well as the last set, he was nearly flawless, as good as he has ever played on grass.
        So it could be the fact that you watched a different match. Fed was not tired. His FH was the shot which was not at the level where it should have been and he ended up losing the match. Plain and simple.
        Remember Rafa too was not able to close out the Match at Wimby’08. He too had championship points in the 4th set, right?

        I do understand that you may not like Nole, but you can give him the credit where it’s due. Even the majority of tennis population believed that Nole played a really great match that day.

        As for THIS Muzz playing THAT Nole, I just hope we don’t go in that territory. We don’t really know what would have happened, all we can do is speculate.

        So, yeah, as Rafa said, there is no “IF” in sports..

        Let’s just enjoy what these 2 players put up on court tomorrow.

      • “I do understand that you may not like Nole, but you can give him the credit where it’s due.”

        You are right, I do not like Nole and I should give him credit for the great he has become.

  4. Ricky, you gotta make an exception and write an ode about Serena Williams. It’s not Roger Federer with the most Slams in the current generation, it’s Serena Williams.

  5. Match on Nole’s racquet. He wins if he is 90% of his best.

    Muzz needs help from Nole to win this.

    This matchup never leads to highly entertaining tennis

    So much for the demise of the Top 4 that so many journos keep writing about.

    #DoYou ???

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