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Preview: Australian Open final: Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Novak Djokovic - prediction, head to head, road to final

Sports Mole previews Sunday's Australian Open men's final between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Novak Djokovic, including predictions and head-to-head records.

Stefanos Tsitsipas faces Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open men's final on Sunday, with the Serbian aiming to win his 10th title in Melbourne to join Rafael Nadal on an all-time record 22 Grand Slam men's singles titles.

Tsitsipas, meanwhile, will be competing in only his second Grand Slam final after losing to Djokovic in the French Open final two years ago.

Match preview

Novak Djokovic pictured at the Australian Open on January 27, 2023© Reuters

Despite heading into the tournament carrying a hamstring injury, which he sustained in an Adelaide International semi-final against Daniil Medvedev earlier this month, Djokovic has looked in imperious form throughout most of the fortnight's action in Melbourne.

Having been deported from Australia during last year's tournament due to his anti-vaccination stance - opening the door for Nadal to move beyond him on Grand Slam titles by beating Medvedev in the final - the 35-year-old has pushed through the pain barrier to only drop one set on the way to reaching Sunday's final.

After surviving a first set scare against the unseeded American Tommy Paul in Friday's semi-final, which saw Djokovic concede four successive games at 5-1 up, the nine-time champion comfortably maintained his 100% record in Australian Open semi-finals by only dropping three games in the following two sets combined to set up a meeting with Tsitsipas on Sunday.

Djokovic has never lost an Australian Open final either, beating the likes of Andy Murray, Nadal and Medvedev across his nine finals in Melbourne, and he will be determined to join his great Spanish rival as one of only two men to reach double figures in terms of the amount of titles won at one particular Grand Slam.

However, Djokovic will be more than aware that Sunday's clash represents by far his biggest test of the tournament so far having been fortunate to avoid the likes of Nadal, Medvedev and Nick Kyrgios along the way, and he can scarcely afford to lose concentration as he undoubtedly did during his semi-final win against Paul.

Stefanos Tsitsipas pictured at the Australian Open on January 27, 2023© Reuters

Indeed, Tsitsipas has been in excellent form himself in Melbourne this month, winning four of his six matches in straight sets to reach only his second ever Grand Slam final.

The 2019 ATP Finals winner, who would become world number one if he can upset the odds to inflict Djokovic's first ever Australian Open final defeat, looked set for another comfortable win against Karen Khachanov in his semi-final on Friday, having led 5-3 in the third set after winning the first two.

However, the Russian is a tricky customer on his day and he stirred back into contention to win three straight games, before prevailing in the tie-breaker to force the match into a fourth set. Ultimately, Tsitsipas displayed his growing maturity to hold his nerve and book another final against Djokovic, which took some guts having lost three semi-finals in the past four years in Melbourne.

The 24-year-old will be determined to become the 58th man to win a Grand Slam during the Open Era, but he will be under no illusions regarding the scale of the task awaiting him on Sunday, especially having lost each of his last nine meetings against the legendary Serb.

Tsitsipas will need to serve consistently big in order to avoid unnecessary pressure in his service games, while waiting patiently for opportunities which come his way, but the Greek star should take confidence from the fact that Paul forced eight break points against Djokovic on Friday.

Tsitsipas undoubtedly possesses the talent and power to make more of those chances should he generate them, even if it will be a tall order for him to prevail over five sets against one of the sport's greatest ever players.

Route to the final

Novak Djokovic reacts at the Australian Open on January 19, 2023© Reuters

Stefanos Tsitsipas:

First round: vs. Quentin Halys 6-3 6-4 7-6
Second round: vs. Rinky Hijikata 6-3 6-0 6-2
Third round: vs. Tallon Griekspoor 6-2 7-6 6-3
Round of 16: vs. Jannik Sinner 6-4 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-3
Quarter-final: vs. Jiri Lehecka 6-3 7-6 6-4
Semi-final: vs. Karen Khachanov 7-6 6-4 6-7 6-3

Novak Djokovic:

First round: vs. Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3 6-4 6-0
Second round: vs. Enzo Couacaud 6-1 6-7 6-2 6-0
Third round: vs. Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 6-3 6-4
Round of 16: vs. Alex de Minaur 6-2 6-1 6-2
Quarter-final: vs. Andrey Rublev 6-1 6-2 6-4
Semi-final: vs. Tommy Paul 7-5 6-1 6-2

Head To Head

Stefanos Tsitsipas reacts at the Australian Open on January 28, 2022© Reuters

ATP Finals - Round Robin (2022): Djokovic won 6-4 7-6
ATP Masters 1000 Paris - Semi-final (2022): Djokovic won 6-2 3-6 7-6
Astana - Final (2022): Djokovic won 6-3 6-4
ATP Masters 1000 Rome - Final (2022): Djokovic won 6-0 7-6
French Open - Final (2021): Djokovic won 6-7 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4
ATP Masters 1000 Rome - Quarter-final (2021): Djokovic won 4-6 7-5 7-5
French Open - Semi-final (2020): Djokovic won 6-3 6-2 5-7 4-6 6-1
Dubai - Final (2020): Djokovic won 6-3 6-4
ATP Masters 1000 Paris - Quarter-final (2019): Djokovic won 6-1 6-2
ATP Masters 1000 Shanghai - Quarter-final (2019): Tsitsipas won 3-6 7-5 6-3
ATP Masters 1000 Madrid - Final (2019): Djokovic won 6-3 6-4
ATP Masters 1000 Canada - Last-16 (2018): Tsitsipas won 6-3 6-7 6-3

As mentioned, Djokovic has won each of his last nine meetings against Tsitsipas, dropping just six sets across those victories.

If the Serb's biggest barrier to winning his 10th Australian Open may be his hamstring issue, then Tsitsipas's greatest obstacle to triumphing in a Grand Slam final for the first time will undoubtedly be the psychological aspect, especially after losing against Djokovic in the final at Roland Garros despite winning the first two sets.

However, this will be the pair's first meeting in a Grand Slam tournament away from a clay court, with Tsitsipas leading the head-to-head on outdoor hard courts 2-1.

Although those two victories came in 2018 and 2019, there is little doubt that Tsitsipas is a more rounded player now than he was then.

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We say: Djokovic to win in four sets

There is little doubt that Djokovic is the massive favourite here, especially having seemingly overcome his hamstring injury in recent matches. The 35-year-old is undefeated in Australian Open finals, with his domination in Melbourne reaching Nadal-in-Paris-type levels.

However, Djokovic has a habit of losing the first set in Grand Slam finals before coming back to win, as was the case when these two met at the final in Roland Garros two years ago.

We can envisage Tsitsipas coming out of the traps all guns blazing, before Djokovic wrestles back control of the match through his experience to lift a 10th Australian Open title, reclaim his status as the world's best tennis player and join Nadal on 22 Grand Slam titles in the process.

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Novak Djokovic reacts at the Australian Open on January 23, 2023
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