Aussie Open men's final preview
Men’s final: No. 1 Roger Federer vs. No. 5 Andy Murray
With all of the uncertainty surrounding Rafael Nadal’s ailing knees, Murray has re-emerged as the player best suited to challenge Federer’s supremacy in 2010. The Scot is part of a short list of players who enjoy a head-to-head advantage over the Swiss star. Murray has won six of the 10 matches they’ve played. However, the world No. 1 has won the last two meetings between the players and cruised past Murray in the 2008 U.S. Open final in straight sets.
There are some differences between Sunday’s title match and Federer’s convincing win two years ago in Flushing Meadows. In 2008, Murray may have been a bit fatigued in the championship match. He survived a tight four-set battle with Juan Martin del Potro in the quarterfinals and edged Rafael Nadal in a semifinal that was contested over two days because of rain in New York City. Murray has only dropped a single set in this year’s Australian Open and will have one more day of rest than Federer when they meet in the finals.
Murray has also added more variety to his approach in recent years. He used an attacking style to beat Nadal in the quarterfinals, but then relied on his defensive return skills to take care of Marin Cilic in the semis.
This final should be a showcase of cerebral tennis with two of the best tacticians on display. Both players move well and are able to take advantage of the entire court. Federer has a superior offensive game, but Murray should be able to exploit the closest thing the world No. 1 has to a weakness by going after Federer’s backhand.
Perhaps the No. 5 seed can draw on some on statistical symmetry to pull off an upset win. Murray is 22 years old -- Federer was a month shy of his 22nd birthday when he won his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2003. Here’s another nugget for stat mavens: it took Federer 17 attempts before he captured his first major at the All-England Club. Murray is playing in his 17th Grand Slam this week in Melbourne.
Murray will need to have all of his shots working against the top seed because Federer was at his best in dismantling Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in just 88 minutes on the court. Federer hasn’t faced a substantial challenge thus far in Melbourne Park, reaching his 18th final in the last 19 Grand Slams that have been played.
While Murray can derive inspiration from the fact that del Potro pulled off a major surprise against Federer in last year’s U.S. Open final, the "Federer Express" seems ready to roll to a 16th Grand Slam championship.