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Can Medvedev halt Sinner’s surge in final showdown?

It will be a battle between two established Top 5 stars, but the duo’s respective journeys through the draw in Melbourne could hardly have been more different.

Can Medvedev halt Sinner’s surge in final showdown?
Jannik Sinner celebrates his victory against Novak Djokovic in the semi-final

MELBOURNE: There will be a new pair of hands on the trophy Sunday evening at the Australian Open. Daniil Medvedev and Jannik Sinner go head-to-head inside Rod Laver Arena for the first Grand Slam title of the 2024 season.

It will be a battle between two established Top 5 stars, but the duo’s respective journeys through the draw in Melbourne could hardly have been more different.

Sinner has been almost untouchable throughout his run to his maiden major championship match. The 22-year-old Italian had not dropped a set until his semi-final with 10-time champion Novak Djokovic, upon whom he nonetheless inflicted a first Australian Open defeat since 2018 in four sets.

In contrast, Medvedev has twice been on the brink of defeat so far this fortnight. He trailed both Emil Ruusuvuori in the second round and Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals by two sets, only to rally both times to marathon victories. The third seed’s reward is a sixth major final appearance, and his third in Melbourne, as he looks to add a second Grand Slam crown to his 2021 US Open win.

Having played just 19 completed sets in the tournament to Medvedev’s 25 and coming in off the back of snapping Djokovic’s 33-match Australian Open winning streak, Sinner will step on court Sunday full of confidence.

Yet the 22-year-old will not allow the convincing manner of his run, and particularly his semi-final victory against the World No. 1, to mask the task at hand against Medvedev. “Obviously, it means so much to me to beat Novak here in Melbourne, but in another way, I know that the tournament is not over,” said the fourth-seeded Sinner after his semi-final win. “Sunday is a final. It’s different emotions because the final is always different.

“It doesn’t really matter how big the tournament is. In my mind today I knew it was the semi-final. It’s not that you win the tournament like this. I’m looking forward for Sunday, and let’s see what’s coming.”

The way Medvedev raised his game to overcome Ruusuvuori and Zverev were reminders of how the 26-year-old’s relentless baseline retrieving skills help him capitalise on any dip in level from an opponent. Even if Sinner gets off to a fast start in Sunday’s final, Medvedev is not likely to lose belief he can win.

“Mentally 100 per cent, I’m stronger than I was before this tournament, because now I know that I’m capable of some things maybe I thought I’m not,” said Medvedev after defeating Zverev. “Because before I didn’t do anything like this to get to the final [before], so mentally I’m stronger than before, and I’m happy about it.

Sinner broke two long-standing ducks during his rich vein of form in late 2023. As well as notching his first two wins against Djokovic at the Nitto ATP Finals and the Davis Cup Finals, the Italian also bounced back from losing his first six Lexus ATP Head2Head clashes with Medvedev in style.

In Melbourne, Sinner has so far vindicated the theory that his game has hit new heights in recent months. The Italian, who lifted the biggest title of his career so far at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Toronto last August, is nonetheless determined not to get carried away as he seeks to become a Grand Slam champion for the first time.

“I think after last year, especially the end of the year, it gave me confidence that I could potentially do some good results in Grand Slams,” said Sinner.

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