Novak Djkovoic: Australian Open Final vs. Andy Murray Will Set Tone for 2013
If you've been (understandably) unable to stay up until 3 a.m. to keep up with the latest happenings at the 2013 Australian Open, well, just imagine it looking a whole lot like the end of 2012.
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will meet in their second final in three years down in Melbourne, having vanquished opponents ranging from nondescript to top-ranked along the way. That should be no surprise for those who have followed trends in Grand Slam finals.
Sunday will mark Murray's third straight major championship final, dating back his loss to Roger Federer at Wimbledon last year. Djokovic, meanwhile, has made six of the past seven Grand Slam finals, including victories in each of the past two Australian Opens.
As for more recent history, this matchup is also a repeat of the most recent Grand Slam, wherein Murray vanquished his Serbian rival at the 2012 U.S. Open to claim his first major championship. The two went through an epic, five-set battle that lasted four hours and 54 minutes, equaling the longest final ever played at Flushing Meadows.
That victory last season was actually Murray's second straight win over Djokovic on the big stage. The Scottish star also defeated his Australian Open opponent during the 2012 Summer Olympics en route to winning a gold medal.
For those who have trouble following tea leaves, let me spell this out for you: Murray and Djokovic are currently the two best players in the world. The world tennis rankings may say otherwise, but their performance on the biggest of stages don't lie.
And assuming that trend continues, Sunday's final in Melbourne won't just be for the Australian Open championship. Instead, the match will set the tone for the entire 2013 ATP season, with whomever comes away victorious taking over the (fictional) reigns as the player to beat in every tournament.
That's obviously not to say Murray and Djokovic will win every single tournament this season and everyone else should just turn in their tour cards. The ATP field is arguably deeper and stronger than ever, as both men found out the hard way in their Australian Open journey.
Though both men faced tests, Djokovic's biggest near-upset came during the Round of 16 versus Stanislas Wawrinka. The 27-year-old Swiss took Djokovic to the brink multiple times during their five-set thriller before the world's top ranked player finally finished his upset-minded opponent off.
It was a match that many took as a sign of impending doom for Djokovic, rather than simply crediting Wawrinka for a match well-played. Of course, Djokovic subsequently responded in fine form, defeating Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer with ease.
Murray's largest foe en route to Sunday's final was far more familiar. Facing off against Federer in the semifinals, the two greats fought back and forth in an entertaining match. Though it ultimately took Murray five sets to advance, the contest never once felt like it was in jeopardy. Murray controlled the pace, frustrating the normally calm and collected Federer, which led to some surprisingly chippy chatter.
However, no matter how many sets it took, these two seemed destined for a collision course in the finals and that trend should continue throughout 2013.
Yes, Federer still looms and hasn't showed much sign of slowing down, but he's also 31 years old. Father time waits for no one, and the gap between him and Murray seemed pretty large at points during their semifinal matchup.
Obviously, the presence of Rafael Nadal also looms. He's arguably the world's best player when healthy, but it's been a half-year since anyone has even seen him on a tennis court, let alone dominating on one.
For now, it's just Djokovic and Murray, two dominant figures lording over the field in Melbourne. The victor on Sunday will walk away with not only a Grand Slam trophy, but as the man to beat during the 2013 ATP season.
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