Novak Djokovic is set to face third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Australian Open final in Melbourne on Sunday. Tsitsipas is at the peak of his physical powers at 24 and is going to face an opponent 11 years older than him. He is also the higher-seeded player. But the Greek is very much the underdog heading into the match. Where he is going for his first Major, Djokovic has won 21, including nine at Melbourne Park, where he has won his last 27 matches.
The great Serb has an iron resolve and seemingly endless stamina, as well as probably the best return of all time and razor sharp groundstrokes. However, nothing is impossible in sports and the last thing Tsitsipas should do is accept defeat even before the match starts. He is a quality player and definitely has the ability give Djokovic a run for his money. But what can he do to upset the odds against Djokovic, who has made an absolute mockery of his opponents in the last three matches:
Try to make Djokovic move to his right more often:
Tsitsipas’ forehand is his strength and he will need it to be firing if he is to have a chance against Djokovic. However, although he might be naturally inclined to hit the inside-out forehand that will into Djokovic’s backhand, that would be a mistake. Andrey Rublev tried to do the same in the quarterfinals only for Djokovic’s to stretch himself out to his left and retrieve balls which would have out of any lesser mortal’s reach.
Djokovic’s defense is almost impregnable towards his backhand wing and Tsitsipas will do well to test the Serb’s forehand wing. It’s not exactly a weakness, but Djokovic can be put under pressure on the forehand side. Accordingly, Tsitsipas must look to hit inside-in and cross-court forehands to pin Djokovic in his forehand corner as often as possible.
Attacking the net
Tsitsipas will need to win a lot of easy points if he is to make a match of it on Sunday. That means he will need to attack the net, regularly. Tsitsipas has been playing well from the baseline, but he won’t beat Djokovic from there. Not in these conditions. Tsitsipas pegged Karen Khachanov back repeatedly in the semifinal with his mighty serve and forehand and then hit a lot of winners at the net. He will need to do more of the same against Djokovic. There will be the danger of a passing shot from the Serb, but Tsitsipas has no other option.
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