Djokovic one win away from record 8th Australian Open title

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January 30th, 2020

Just as predicted, Novak Djokovic is headed to the men’s Australian Open final, where he’ll meet an unexpected counterpart on Sunday morning.

The seven-time tournament winner opened as the frontrunner to claim his record eighth title in Melbourne and will face either No. 5 seed Dominic Thiem or No. 7 Alexander Zverev.

Thiem eliminates Nadal in surprise quarterfinal

Ahead of the event, many anticipated a championship showdown with Djokovic and 19-time Grand Slam champion and world No. 1 Rafael Nadal. Thiem put an end to that dream matchup, as he knocked off the Spaniard in four sets in Wednesday’s quarterfinal.

Thiem will now confront Zverev on Thursday night for a chance at his third Grand Slam final appearance of his career. The 26-year-old Austrian reached the final of the French Open in both 2018 and 2019, but he fell both times to Nadal.

Thiem and Zverev square off for shot at Djokovic

Zverev, a +175 underdog in the semifinal, is a career 2-6 versus Thiem. He last lost to him in the semifinal of the Nitto ATP Finals, an indoor hard-court tournament, and hasn’t beaten his adversary on the surface since the 2016 China Open. 

While it’s all but certain Djokovic should triumph on Saturday, Thiem would present his toughest challenge. In last year’s ATP Finals, Thiem upset the 16-time Grand Slam titleholder in a come-from-behind win, 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(5).

Overall, Djokovic holds a 6-4 advantage when facing Thiem, though the up-and-comer has prevailed in four of their past five matches, most of those on outdoor clay. 

Women’s side full of surprises

In the women’s singles tournament, two longshots shook up the field to reach the title match on Saturday. World No. 15 Sofia Kenin rolled through Coco Gauff in the fourth round, then beat Ons Jabeur, 6-4, 6-4, and stunned No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, 7-6, 7-5, in the semifinal.

Kenin will face off with former World No. 1 Garbine Muguruza (now 32nd), who claimed the French Open in 2016 and won Wimbledon in 2017. The 26-year-old Spaniard crushed No. 5 Elina Svitolina (6-1, 6-2) in the third round, toppled No. 9 seed Kiki Bertens, downed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and fought off No. 4 Simona Halep in the semifinal.

Muguruza is a slight favorite (-185) in Saturday’s match and defeated Kenin 6-0, 2-6, 6-2 on hard court last year in Beijing.

This is Kenin’s first appearance in a Grand Slam semifinal. The 21-year-old American is 7-2 in the tournament, while Muguruza is 23-7 in her career at the Australian Open.

Experience will be on the side of Muguruza, but Kenin is also playing at the top of her game. She won 92% of her service games in the semifinal while competing in front of a crowd cheering heavily for hometown hero Barty. If Kenin could overcome that type of pressure, she surely can piece together one more stellar performance and earn the first Grand Slam title of her career on Saturday.

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