You come for the long rallies. You will wake up after midnight to watch the spectacular lactic-acid-inducing points between baseline heavy-weights Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev. You come for the cartoonish side-to-side sliding that makes these guys look like they are playing on clay instead of hard. You come for the bruising backhands and ferocious forehands that promise to be a hallmark of the 2021 Australian Open final.
That’s just fine. I can’t wait to see them either! They are just not going to be the main contributing factor to who wins the match. This battle will be won and lost with:
- service winners
- unreturned serves
- Serve +1 winners / errors
- Return +1 winners / errors
The first two times Novak and Daniil touch the ball in the rally will matter more to the final outcome than all the shots that follow.
You come for the long. Pay attention to the short. As an example, here’s the rally length data on the women’s final.
Naomi Osaka def. Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-3
- 0-4 Shots: Osaka won 55 / Brady won 42. That’s + 13 for Osaka
- 5+ Shots: Osaka won 14 / Brady won 12. That’s +2 for Osaka.
- Osaka dominated the short rallies in 0-4 shots. That’s where her real advantage existed.
Matches To The Final
- def. Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-1, 6-2
- def. Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(2), 6-3
- def. Taylor Fritz 7-6(1), 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1
- def. Milos Raonic 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4
- def. Alexander Zverev 6-7(6), 6-2, 6-4, 7-6(6)
- def. Aslan Karatsev 6-3, 6-4, 6-2
It’s important when analyzing Novak’s numbers to the final that he has played some tall timber on the other side of the net that thrive in the 0-4 rally length.
- def. Vasek Pospisil 6-2, 6-2, 6-4
- def. Roberto Carballes Baena 6-2, 7-5, 6-1
- def. Filip Krajinovic 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 6-0
- def. Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 6-2, 6-3
- def. Andrey Rublev 7-5, 6-3, 6-2
- def. Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-2, 7-5
Medvedev is in scintillating form, blowing by two outstanding, in-form opponents in the last two rounds in Rublev and Tsitsipas. Extremely impressive straight-set victories.
Rally Length Break Down – Points Played To The Final
- 0-4 Shots = 68% (948)
- 5-8 Shots = 20% (279)
- 9+ Shots = 12% (175)
- Total = 1402
This is as high as I have seen Novak in points played in 0-4. The fast courts this year at the Aussie Open contribute to that, as well as his big-hitting opponents. I have seen his 0-4 numbers leading into a final around the 55% mark in the past. It’s a credit to his versatile game style that he can adapt and succeed in the shorter points this year.
- 0-4 Shots = 64% (688)
- 5-8 Shots = 21% (228)
- 9+ Shots = 14% (155)
- Total = 1071
These numbers are right where Medvedev likes to be. Lots of attacking early, but also extending the point when returning to apply pressure to the server to do a little extra – and miss. He is right in his wheelhouse.
Rally Length Break Down – Points WON
- 0-4 Shots = 510 won / 438 lost = +72
- 5-8 Shots = 148 won / 131 lost = +17
- 9+ Shots = 102 won / 73 lost = +29
- Total = 760 won / 642 lost = +118
Solid numbers from Novak in 0-4 against opponents that really like to dominate there as well. Interesting to see that Novak has been the least dominant in the 5-8 shot range.
- 0-4 Shots = 403 won / 285 lost = +118
- 5-8 Shots = 115 won / 113 lost = +2
- 9+ Shots = 94 won / 61 lost = +33
- Total = 612 won / 459 = +153 won
Medvedev is crushing it in 0-4. That’s the most impressive stat from either player, being +118 versus Novak’s +72, even though Daniil played fewer points overall (1071 to 1402).
0-4 Shots Broken Down
Now let’s break each shot down and see how Novak and Daniil are performing on a micro-level. Points won = winners hit by each player + errors committed by their opponents.
Remember that rally length is predicated by the ball hitting the court – not the strings. So a three-shot rally is a serve going in, the return going in and the server hitting their third shot in – either for a winner, or the next shot is an error from the opponent.
Novak: Points Won In One-Shot Rallies
Novak is +7 (133-125) in one-shot rallies for the tournament, which is actually a really good number considering the number of aces his opponents typically hit. 100 aces to the final is a solid accomplishment for the Super Serb.
Daniil: Points Won In One-Shot Rallies
These numbers are incredibly impressive for Daniil and ominous for Novak. Novak has been enjoying a lot of free points on serve this tournament with 100 aces and 11 service winners. Medvedev has yielded only 23 so far. This one metric is going to play a big part in the final.
Two Shot Rallies
Novak: Points Won In Two-Shot Rallies
A two-shot rally is the serve going in and the return going in. Sometimes the return is a winner, but the vast majority are a Serve +1 errors. Novak enjoyed a 27 shot advantage here against his opponent.
Daniil: Points Won In Two-Shot Rallies
Novak created a 27 point advantage for himself in two-shot rallies. Daniil is slightly higher here at 39. What’s interesting is that Novak has committed 108 forced errors here and Daniil was much lower, committing just 65. That’s going to be a big part of Sunday’s final. Who can absorb a big return and not be forced into an error.
Three Shot Rallies
Novak: Points Won In Three-Shot Rallies
Novak was more aggressive in three-shot rallies with 53 winners to 43 and also forcing around twice as many errors (20-12). He was also far less likely to commit an unforced error.
Daniil: Points Won In Three-Shot Rallies
Novak’s numbers are considerably higher than Daniil’s when it comes to just three balls in play. Novak has 53 winners to just 26 from Daniil. Surprisingly, even Daniil’s opponents did better here, with 38 winners.
Four Shot Rallies
Novak: Points Won In Four-Shot Rallies
Things get a lot closer here between Novak and his opponents. Novak actually loses the unforced error tally for the first time (18-21) when looking at all the rally lengths in 0-4.
Daniil: Points Won In Four-Shot Rallies
Very interesting to see that Daniil is losing this rally length to his opponents even though he won all six matches. Daniil is making more errors – particularly unforced errors.
Overall, when you combine all four rally lengths together Daniil comes out 104 points ahead of his opponents. Very solid. Novak is not far away with an 85 points advantage. You must also take into account Daniil has not played as many total points (1071-1402) as Novak.
Daniil takes the honors in the 0-4 rally length to the final in a head-to-head comparison with Novak. It’s a gauge of their form coming into the last match of the tournament. Things start fresh Sunday evening in Melbourne.
I predicted Novak would win the tournament at the beginning. Not a huge stretch to pick the defending champion, who has also collected the trophy eight times Down Under. I said that until Djokovic loses, then there is no point talking about anyone else to win the tournament.
Medvedev’s impressive numbers – in 0-4 especially – make him THE most dangerous opponent for Novak out of the other 127 opponents. Novak has got his toughest test on the biggest stage. In some ways, I am sure that’s exactly how he wants it. It’s not a stretch to say that Novak even thrives on this kind of adversity.
Here are their last four matches head-to-head.
- 2020 London: Medvedev def. Djokovic 6-3, 6-3
- 2020 ATP Cup: Djokovic def. Medvedev 6-1, 5-7, 6-4
- 2019 Cincinnati: Medvedev def. Djokovic 3-6, 6-3, 6-3
- 2019 Monte Carlo: Medvedev def. Djokovic 6-3, 4-6, 6-2
I can’t wait!!! I will definitely be waking up in the middle of the night for this one.