The Australian Open Men's singles concludes on Sunday and Racing Post tennis writer Adrian Humphries gives his verdict on the Melbourne Park final.
Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas are bidding to get the season off to the best possible start and Adrian Humphries has lined up some appetising bets for tennis punters.
|What||Stefanos Tsitsipas v Novak Djokovic|
|Where||Melbourne Park, Melbourne|
|When||08:30, Sunday 29th January|
|How to watch||Eurosport and Discovery+|
|Odds||Stefanos Tsitsipas 19/5, Novak Djokovic 1/5|
After last year's ban from competing, Djokovic has returned to Melbourne Park very much on a mission and it's one he’s likely to complete successfully.
The Australian Open has been Djokovic's favourite Grand Slam tournament in his career, having won the first of his record nine titles in 2008 and most recently lifting the trophy in 2021.
Rafael Nadal currently leads the all-time Grand Slam record with 22 to his name, but his Serbian foe is only one behind and he has turned out Down Under looking fit as a fiddle and musclebound for his bid to dominate the coming campaign.
And Djokovic hasn't done much wrong on his path to this year's Australian Open final. He has dropped only one set - in round two against qualifier Enzo Couacaud - and took Alex de Minaur and Andrey Rublev apart in the fourth round and quarter-finals respectively.
After a fast start against surprise semi-finalist Tommy Paul, the former world number one let the American back into their opening set before triumphing in straight sets. However, Djokovic's toughest opponent was arguably Grigor Dimitrov, the capable but inconsistent Bulgarian, who he defeated in three sets in the last 32.
The fact that Dimitrov, who is physically more powerful than Rublev and De Minaur, caused the title favourite most problems could afford a degree of hope to Tsitsipas going into the final. After all, Djokovic is not going to carry on being victorious Down Under forever and it's a case of trying to estimate when things might get tougher for the player who has pushed his chosen sport to new levels.
Tsitsipas himself has been troubled in this year's Australian Open by only Jannik Sinner, who took the Greek to five sets in the last 16, and in-form Karen Khachanov, who won a set against the Grand Slam title maiden in their semi-final.
But Melbourne Park is very much Djokovic's play area and it will be a big surprise if Djokovic fails to hold sway against Tsitsipas from the outset and maintain that superiority throughout the match the way he did in his straight-sets final victory over Daniil Medvedev two years ago.
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Djokovic leads Tsitsipas 10-2 in career meetings but after a bright start for the Greek new kid on the block in his early career, the Serb has won each of their last nine clashes.
And while Tsitsipas is capable of giving more trouble to Djokovic on clay or indoor hard courts, it's usually a different story on outdoor hard courts.
Djokovic has won their last two such meetings, in Astana and Dubai, comprehensively in straight sets.
Since being competitive against Djokovic on clay in 2020 and 2021 - matches in which the Serb still managed to triumph - Tsitsipas has won only one of the last nine sets the pair have contested and that was in the indoor Paris Masters late last season.
Back on outdoor hard courts and in Djokovic's favourite tournament, the recent onslaught is likely to continue and in fine style too.
For a second bet on the match, it is worth backing Djokovic to serve over 11.5 aces in the final at 10/11.
The Serb's total aces count has stepped up in the quarter-finals and semi-finals and punters can take a chance that the trend continues.
Djokovic served nine aces in each of his opening two matches in the tournament, against Roberto Carballes Baena and Couacoud. His output rose to 11 in his date with Dimitrov but dropped to just four against Australian De Minaur, who anticipates the ball well and is a fine returner of serve.
However, Djokovic posted his highest aces tally of the competition with 14 against Rublev in the last eight, and that figure dropped by just two for his comfortable passage against Paul.
Tsitsipas's game has few weaknesses. He is a reasonably good returner, although not perhaps quite as precocious as De Minaur, and it would not be a surprise to see Australian Open fifth seed Djokovic rack up another hefty aces total in his 13th career meeting with his fourth-seeded opponent.