Daniil Medvedev and Jannik Sinner
(3) Daniil Medvedev vs. (4) Jannik Sinner

For the first time since 2005, the men’s championship match at the Australian Open will not feature at least one of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, or Novak Djokovic. That year Marat Safin defeated Lleyton Hewitt, who was just inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame in a ceremony on Rod Laver Arena a few days ago.

That’s a run of eighteen consecutive years, and between them they won seventeen of those eighteen trophies, ceding only one to Stan Wawrinka in 2014.

This is what a changing of the guard looks like. And it is not a let down. We have two guys duking it out who are playing tremendous tennis, each of them easily at a level high enough to challenge the famed Big 3.

Tennis is in good hands, and this might be the year we look back on as the one that sealed the transition. It all starts with the Australian Open. We’ll have a first time winner this Sunday.

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Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt in the 2005 Australian Open final.

Sinner, Sinner, Carrot Dinner

If any nonbelievers remained in the tennis world, they should be convinced now.

Jannik Sinner is the real deal.

His thorough takedown of Novak Djokovic—the world No. 1, 10-time Aussie champ (33 match wins in a row here dating back to 2019), 24-time major winner, clear numerical GOAT, blah, blah, blah…you know all his accolades—was ample evidence to settle any questions.

This also gives Sinner head-to-head victories in 3 out of 4 meetings in the last two months (plus a doubles win for good measure). That’s a type of individual dominance Djokovic has not encountered against any other player since early in his career before he solved his Federer/Nadal dilemmas.

Sinner has his number. Sinner has everyone’s number right now. He’s playing better tennis than anyone on tour. How long he can keep this level up will be answered in time, but for now, he and his team are clicking on all cylinders.

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Djokovic may not have had his best stuff in that semifinal, but a lot of that was due to Sinner’s constant pressure. He made Djokovic uncomfortable.

He should have won in straights. He had a match point in the third set tiebreaker that he failed to convert. The tennis gods stepped in. They weren’t going to let Novak suffer such an unceremonious exit here.

Nonetheless, Sinner slayed the dragon who had been hoarding all the Australian gold.

Now he turns his attention to the remainder of the task at hand. He has to finish the job with one more match. Standing in his way is no pushover.

Three-time Aussie finalist, former U.S. Open champion, and third-seeded Daniil Medvedev awaits.


“We say third time’s lucky, so let’s see. I can say by experience it’s not always like this but, hopefully here it works, I don’t know if you guys in Australia have this phrase, hopefully yes.”

They do.

Medvedev was responding to Jim Courier’s question about this being Medvedev’s third time to reach the final here in Australia. He’s 0-2 in those contests.

Then, unprompted, Medvedev pulled back the curtain and said something quite insightful.

“It would mean a lot because, I would say this court is not my best court in terms of my performance and my actual self esteem, I would say, on the court, and that’s why many times I had to dig deep during this tournament.”

Medvedev was referring to the series of Houdini acts he has pulled off the last two weeks. He came back from two sets down not once, but twice. Before his semifinal comeback against Zverev, he also came back from two sets down to Emil Ruusuvuori, 3-6 6-7(1) 6-4 7-6(1) 6-0.

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For someone who is a three-time finalist, it’s surprising to hear that he struggles with self-esteem on Rod Laver Arena, a court he has had so much success on. The losses in the two previous finals may have left a pretty bad taste in his mouth.

He’ll be burning hot to win the title this time around. It’s his sixth Grand Slam final overall, and this will be the first time he doesn’t have to play either Rafa or Novak in a Grand Slam final. Ordinarily that would be considered a relief, but their replacement isn’t going to be any easier. Perhaps even less so.

Medvedev leads their head-to-head matchups 6-3. He won the first six, and has lost the last three—two of them in finals. The script has flipped. Sinner is no longer an upstart finding his way. Medvedev will have that in the back of his mind, no doubt.

Match Breakdown

Jannik will dictate the action from the start. His game has become intentionally more offensive in the last six months. It’s the reason he’s surging right now.

He has learned to have faith in his ability to put an extra 5-6% into a shot and know that it will go in. That mindset has freed him up to swing away, and the ROI on that one tactical change has been astronomical.

Medvedev is one of the best defenders in the game, though. It’s why they call him the octopus. He gets to seemingly every ball. Even when it looks like the ball is behind him, he can whip-snap it back in play with interest, stunning his unexpecting opponent.

That relentless, surprising defense eventually wears opponents down as they get annoyed at how many times they have to win a single point.

Medvedev is the king of turning tides. He’d prefer to get out to a fast start, but he doesn’t have to. He only needs to wiggle into the head of his opponent and drain them of belief. Then he pounces.

Sinner’s serve has become a bigger weapon, and he should get plenty of free points with it.

Medvedev will be content to stand way back and roll the serves back deep to start the point. From there, he’ll have to guard against Sinner playing first strike tennis to end points early.

Medvedev’s sweet spot is long rallies. It is probably how he took Sinner down the first six times they played.

But the new Sinner is patient. He’s willing to play those long rallies, pick his spots, and execute. It has resulted in three straight wins against Medvedev.

Daniil will need to figure out that puzzle. With his bread and butter strategy negated, he’ll probably need to look for more offense. He’ll need to make Sinner feel unsteady. No one does it better than him, so he’ll need to use all of his guile to find a way to win this one.

This will be their first meeting in a Grand Slam. It’s a treat that it comes in the final.

Expect more from these two in the future.

Winner: Jannik Sinner