With the conclusion of the women’s draw, Serena Williams claimed her sixth title down-under, defeating Maria Sharapova in the final 6-3, 7-6. The women’s championship match came after two fairly uncompetitive semifinals that saw Williams defeat Madison Keys and Sharapova defeat Ekaterina Makarova.
The men’s semifinals were also played earlier this week. In the first semifinal, Andy Murray defeated Tomas Berdych in four sets. That result advanced Murray to his fourth Australian Open final, having lost all three of his previous efforts. For Berdych, semifinal Grand Slam woes continue as the Czech has not yet duplicated the success he had at Wimbledon 2010.
Murray will now face a familiar foe in the Aussie final as Novak Djokovic defeated defending champion Stan Wawrinka in five sets on Friday from Melbourne Park. For the Swiss No. 2 a ranking slide is now in short order as he will lose nearly 1300 ranking points on Friday. For Djokovic, already a four-time champion at the Australian Open, the Serb redeems a tough loss from last season and he will be looking for his fifth title down-under and eighth Grand Slam title overall.
Ahead of the Aussie final, it is Djokovic that is considered the favourite. Bet365, for example, have the World No. 1 priced at -225 (4/9) to win straight up while Murray is priced at +175 (7/4) with the same firm. Murray has claimed that “It would be a big upset if (he) wins,” perhaps showing that he is not entering the match with a lot of confidence. Furthermore the comment also suggests that the odds on Murray are too short as a player winning as a +175 betting underdog, while technically an upset, is not that big of one.
Perhaps ominously for Murray fans, the current World No. 6 did lose all four of his matches against Djokovic in 2014. In those matches, all of which were played on the hard court surface, the Scot only managed to take down one individual set. Overall, Djokovic is a solid 15-8 against Murray, having defeated the Scot in numerous majors in the past.
Murray fans will no doubt ground some optimism in the fact that the head-to-heads between he and Djokovic have not been entirely one-sided by any stretch. While the Serb holds the edge straight up, Murray has twice defeated Djokovic in the final of a major. Most recently, Murray won Wimbledon 2013 through Djokovic in the final. Furthermore, Murray also claimed his maiden Slam at Djokovic’s expense, defeating the Serb on the hard courts of the 2012 US Open.
Based on all his experience, Murray has suggested that he may have to push himself to the max to defeat Djokovic on Sunday.
“I know it’s going to be extremely difficult to win the match tomorrow,” Murray claimed on Saturday from Melbourne Park. “I know if I want to win, it will probably be very, very tough and challenging physically. So I need to prepare myself mentally for that.”
“He has a fantastic record here,” Murray also said of the current World No. 1. “He obviously loves the court and the conditions.”
Murray also clearly loves the court and the conditions too. Few will forget the post-final ceremonies at the 2010 Australian Open when a choked-up Murray, fresh off of a loss to Roger Federer, claimed that he hoped to win in Melbourne Park someday. But few will also forget how Murray charged through the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Australian Open draws only to bump into Djokovic in either the semifinals or the final. Djokovic took each of those matches down, with only their 2012 semifinal being competitive.
The men’s final for the 2015 Australian Open is scheduled for a start time of 7:30pm on Sunday night from Melbourne. For those in North America that may feel like a Saturday night start time as the match will begin at 3:30am ET and 12:30am PT.
It’s hard to predict Murray winning since he isn’t speaking about himself optimistically. Perhaps Murray would best be regarded as a 5 to 1 underdog instead of the 7 to 4 underdog that the sportsbooks are approximating him at.