Google Down the Line!: PREVIEW: Australian Open Men's Final

Saturday, January 30, 2010

PREVIEW: Australian Open Men's Final

(1) Roger Federer vs. (5) Andy Murray
Head-to-Head: 4 Fed, 6 Muzz
Last meeting: '09 WTF (indoor hard), Fed 3-6, 6-3, 6-1

Top seed Roger Federer will look to add No. 16 to his Grand Slam haul (and bury the memories of last year's post-match meltdown) when he battles fifth seed Andy Murray for the Aussie Open title on Sunday.

The Swiss stylist seems to have rounded into form at just the right time especially after a tough opening round match where he lost the first set to Igor Andreev. His movement has been exceptional so far; he's moving fluidly around the court which has allowed him to control points with his blistering forehand and play matches on his own terms. Moreover, Fed has come through a number of tight moments in his matches by serving well and hitting his spots nicely.

Muzz has been the in-form baller this tourney stampeding out of the gates like a man on a mission - and he is. The Brit is still looking for his first Grand Slam title after falling in his major final debut to the Swiss at the '08 U.S. Open. He's continued to play his style of counter-punching tennis but has added a bit more aggression to his game, going for more winners than we're used to seeing from him. In fact he's cracked more winners so far this tourney than Fed (302-289) and didn't even play a full match in the quarterfinals due to Rafael Nadal's injury-induced retirement. Now there's a game changer.

So, I think it would be safe to say there's probably no love lost between these two ballers. The Swiss, in particular, seems to have a dislike for Muzz's play but knows it's a game that can get the better of him if he's not focused. "I always felt, you know, if I played well, I had my chance," said the 15-time Grand Slammer. "If I don't play well, I'm gonna lose, you know. It's been against many sort of counterpunchers, guys that keep the ball in play." It's a good bet then that the H2H in Muzz's favor feels like salt in his wounds.

The fifth seed knows he'll need to be at his top level if he's to win his first Grand Slam and will surely draw confidence from those past wins over the world's top baller. "I mean, anytime you win against him is great, you know," said Muzz. "If it's one win somewhere, if it was one win against nine losses, it would be a little bit different. But that's not the case. I'm gonna need to play my best match ever." Indeed he will.

There's no doubt the Brit baller has a shot at winning this match. He'll need to come out strong and not fall behind early or Fed will smell blood - and we all know what a tremendous front-runner he is. And, unlike Juan Martin del Potro's performance in Flushing Meadows last season, Muzz won't be able to hit through the Swiss so he'll need to stay close in the sets by holding his serve and take the opportunities he's given. It will definitely need to be the best match of his career if he's going to win.

That being said it's hard to pick against the 3-time champ going for his 16th major title. He looked to be in full flight against a subdued Jo-Wilfried Tsonga during his semifinal win (his record 23rd straight Grand Slam final four appearance, BTW) and will be determined to close the gap on their H2H by taking his third straight over Muzz. Fed will need to be mindful of his serving since he'll be facing arguably the best returner in the game right now. I'm pretty sure he's not interested in reliving the serving nightmare that was last year's final. But if all aspects of the Swiss' ethereal game are clicking, he'll be tough to beat.

Advantage, Fed.

[Photo(s): Getty]

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