- Very strong serving – held 91 of 97 service games – 67% 1st serves in play – 81% 1sts serves won – 65% 2nd serves won – saved 13 of 19 break points faced
- Strong return of 2nd serves – 55% won – 26 breaks in 95 return games (27%)
- Forehand has been extremely solid – 85 forehand winners – only 63 forehand unforced errors
- Strong serving through six rounds – 66 aces – 78% 1st serves won – 58% 2nd serves won – held 89 of 99 service games
- 81% returns back in play leads the tournament – won 36% of his return games
- Made more winners than unforced errors in all 6 matches to reach the final
This is the 24th meeting between these two with Djokovic holding a 15-8 edge, winning all 4 matches last year. Djokovic is 3-0 against Murray here at Melbourne Park including two previous finals. These two have very similar games – strong 1st serves – great return games – aggressive forehands – solid two handed backhands, and both are excellent defensive players. When they played here in the 2013 final, the big difference was 2nd serve – Djokovic won 66% of 2nd serves and Murray won 46%. Djokovic did not lose serve and Murray was broken 3 times. In the 2012 semifinals again 2nd serve was crucial – Djokovic won 45% of his 2nd serve points while Murray won just 30%. That match had 18 breaks of serve – 11 by Djokovic and 7 by Murray. In the 2013 final Djokovic was the aggressor throughout and won in 4 sets. In 2012 Murray matched Djokovic’s aggression and lost 7-5 in the 5th.
So for this match it looks like 2nd serves and aggressive play will tell the tale. Both players have done extremely well on 2nd serves through the tournament with a slight edge to Djokovic. Murray has been aggressive in all his matches here this year and will need to continue that type of play. Murray is coming into the final having played an excellent semifinal match against Berdych while Djokovic had his shakiest performance of the tournament against Wawrinka.
S. Williams Highlights:
- Big serving – 70 aces – 127 mph top speed – 41% serves unreturned – but has faced 31 break points – broken 10 times – 27 aces in her last two matches
- Dominating return of serve – 41% won returning 1st serves – 59% won returning 2nd serves – 29 breaks in 59 return games (49%)
- Forehand has been her weapon from the baseline – 64 forehand winners
- Dominant return of serve – 81% returns in play – 41% won returning 1st serves – 68% won returning 2nd serves – 30 breaks in 54 return games (56%)
- Overpowering forehand – 84 forehand winners
- 2nd serve can be a worry – 30 total double faults – 7 in the semifinals
Serena leads their head to head 16-2 and has won their last 15 meetings. That’s not necessarily a doomsday scenario as two similar streaks have ended here in the last two years. Wawrinka ended his 14 match losing streak to Djokovic here last year in the quarterfinals. This year is was Berdych ending his 17 match losing streak to Nadal in the quarterfinals. Maybe it’s Maria’s turn to end a streak. The challenge for Sharapova is she and Serena have very similar games and Serena is just a bit better in the crucial areas. Serena’s serve is just a bit better than Maria’s return and Serena’s return has been just good enough to pressure Sharapova’s serve. In a battle of two power players, Serena has the edge and Sharapova hasn’t had any options or fall back strategies. For Sharapova to win, she’ll need to serve extremely well – lots of 1st serves in and placed well, and she must return aggressively and consistently. And she’ll need a little help from Serena. If both players play their best, Serena wins.
Sharapova into the final
2nd seed Maria Sharapova overpowered 10th seed Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour 27 minutes to advance to the Australian Open final for the 4th time. Sharapova was her usual dominant self on return a she broke Makarova 4 times in 8 games. Sharapova won 44% of Makarova’s 1st serve points and 65% of her 2nd serve points. Maria held 8 of her 9 service games saving 5 of the 6 break points she faced.
Sharapova controlled all phases of the match. She won the majority of the quick points 43-35 (4 shots or fewer) – took charge of the medium length rallies 18-12 (5 to 8 shots) and dominated the longer rallies 9-2 (9 shots or more). Maria won 81% of her 1st serve points and 41% of her serves did not come back. The one area she struggled with a bit was her 2nd serve. She threw in 7 double faults but still won half her 2nd serve points.
Makarova was able to match Sharapova’s power at times, but could not stay consistent while swinging all out. She hit 11 total winners and made 29 unforced errors as she went for her shots but just couldn’t maintain accuracy with that level of aggression. Sharapova hit 23 total winners and made 26 unforced errors.
A US Women’s Singles Finalist
Serena Williams needed 9 match points to subdue fellow American Madison Keys 7-6, 6-2 in 1 hour 24 minutes to advance to the Australian Open Women’s Singles final. It was a tale of two sets – the first one was a nail biter, the second was just a question of when Serena would end it.
Serena Williams took the first set 7-6 in 45 minutes. Keys matched Serena in almost every category except 2nd serve and returns in play. Serena won 73% of her 2nd serve points (aided by 7 unforced return errors from Keys). Keys won 40% when she had to hit a 2nd serve as Serena made just 1 unforced return error. Keys had more total winners 16-10 and double the unforced errors 18-9 in the opening set.
In the second set Keys was not able to stay with the world number 1. Serena found her range returning Keys’ 1st serve and continued to pressure her 2nd serve. Serena did not drop serve in the 2nd set and jumped out to a 5-1 lead. Keys saved 7 match points on her serve to get to 5-2 and Serena served it out with a 2nd serve ace on her 9th match point.
For the match Serena had 19 total winners and 16 unforced errors. Keys hit 27 total winners and 39 unforced errors. It was 2nd serve and return of 2nd serve that really was the difference. Serena won 68% of her 2nd serve points – Keys won 47% of her 2nd serve points. Williams made just 3 unforced errors on return while Keys donated 10 unforced on return. Those missed returns made things much easier for Serena as she held 9 of 10 service games. Keys was broken 3 times.
Serena’s serving numbers – 13 aces – 62% 1st serves in play – 73% 1st serves won – 68% 2nd serves won – saved 2 of 3 break points faced. Keys serving numbers – 12 aces – 63% 1st serves in play – 70% 1st serve points won – 47% 2nd serve points won.
Murray rejoins the “Big Four” and reaches his 4th Australian Open final
6th seed Andy Murray defeated 7th seed Tomas Berdych 6-7, 6-0, 6-3, 7-5 in 3 hours 26 minutes to move back into the top 4 of the ATP rankings come Monday and he returns to the Men’s Singles Final at Melbourne Park for the 4th time.
Murray returned his way into the final breaking Berdych 6 times on 10 break point chances. Berdych had not lost a set on his way to this semifinal and had lost serve just 5 times in 5 matches. Murray was the better server in the match – 15 aces – 65% 1st serves in play – 75% 1st serve points won – 53% 2nd serve points won – just faced 3 break points and dropped serve once in 4 sets. Berdych had just 5 aces and donated 6 double faults, a couple of which cost him breaks of serve. Berdych hit 59% of his first serves in play, giving Murray lots of looks at his 2nd serve which Murray took advantage of.
Murray was steadier from the baseline – 39 total unforced errors compared to 56 from Berdych. Murray won 16 of 17 net approaches (94%) as well. Berdych’s backhand let him down in the longer rallies (he had 3 backhand winners and 25 backhand unforced errors). Murray served a lot out to Berdych’s forehand to open up the backhand side and that worked well as the match progressed.
In the end, it was Berdych missing first serves and having to hit too many 2nd serves to the strong returning Murray that cost him the match.
Keys found on Rod Laver Arena…
Madison Keys upset 18th seed Venus Williams to advance to her first career Grand Slam semifinal 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in 1 hour 51 minutes. Keys was the dominant player throughout the match – more aggressive from the baseline and return of serve. She battled back from 3-1 down in the final set. Keys broke Williams three times in a row to take the match. For the match, keys broke Williams’ serve 7 times and dominated when Venus had to hit a 2nd serve (Keys won 28 of 40 points on Venus’ 2nd serve – 70%). Keys held 9 of 14 service games and struggled a bit on 2nd serve as well (she won 43% of her 2nd serve points).
How aggressive and overpowering was Keys? She hit 34 total winners to just 10 from Williams. She made more unforced errors (45 to 38), but taking big risks, going for big shots, allowed her to control most of the rallies and keep Venus on the defensive. Keys was also very effective at net winning 8 of 12 net approaches. The players were pretty even on the short points (65-63 Keys, on points of 4 shots or fewer), but Keys was tougher on the longer points (28-18 on points of 5 shots or more).
Keys was also the better player on the biggest points. There were 19 total break points in the match and Keys won 12 of the 19 (converted 7 of 9 break point chances and saved 5 of 10 against her serve). On the 5 break points when Venus missed her first serve, Keys was a perfect 5 for 5.
Keys has defeated her third seeded opponent and will face a fourth in the semifinals. Has she found the keys to success? They can be found on Rod Laver Arena.
Serena aces her quarterfinal test
World number 1 Serena Williams advanced to the semifinals with a quick 6-2, 6-2 whipping of Dominika Cibulkova in 65 minutes. Williams hit 15 aces in her 8 service games, 51% of her serves were not returned and she saved the only 2 break points she faced. Serena lost just 4 points on her first serve (20 of 24) and dropped a total of 13 service points in the match.
On return, Serena hit 6 clean return winners and broke Cibulkova 4 times in her 8 service games. Serena hit 31 total winners and made 18 unforced errors – Cibulkova had 13 winners and 18 unforced errors.
Serena next faces the woman who defeated her older sister Venus, fellow American Madison Keys. Keys likes power so it should be an interesting matchup. Serena has the opportunity to get a measure of revenge for her sister and a chance to reach her 6th Australian Open Women’s Singles final.
Stan returns the favor and returns to the semifinals
Defending champion Stan Wawrinka defeated 5th seed Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 in 2 hours 4 minutes to return to the semifinals of the Australian Open. This win for Wawrinka was payback for Nishikori’s win in the quarterfinals of the US Open last September.
This time Wawrinka was the aggressor throughout and was able to dictate play from the baseline. It started with his serve – 20 aces, 46% unreturned serves – 86% 1st serve points won – held 15 of 16 service games – saved 3 of 4 break points faced. Wawrinka had 46 total winners to 23 for Nishikori. Wawrinka made 34 total unforced errors – Nishikori had 31. Nishikori was under pressure on his serve as he faced 11 break points and was broken 3 times.
In the final set tiebreak Wawrinka jumped out to a 6-1 lead holding 5 match points. Nishikori fought back, saving all 5 match points to even the tiebreak at 6-6. He then caught the tape with a drop shot and Wawrinka ended it with his 20 ace of the match.
Djokovic repels Raonic and advances to the semis
World number 1 Novak Djokovic played like the best in the world as he withstood the booming power of Milos Raonic and won 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 in 1 hour 59 minutes. Djokovic continued his impressive serving, not facing a break point in the match, having lost serve just once in the tournament, has now held 73 of 74 service games. Djokovic lost just 12 service points in 15 service games plus a tiebreak.
Djokovic was able to break Raonic 3 times and put pressure on the big Canadian by creating 11 break chances. Djokovic played very solid in all phases of his game – 33 total winners, just 17 unforced errors and 17 of 18 points won when approaching net. Djokovic was also a strong defender limiting Raonic to just 11 of 23 when Raonic approached net.
Next up for Djokovic is the man who knocked him out here last year – Stan Wawrinka. It should be a beauty, Mate!
- Strong serve – held 37 of 43 (86% – best in the tournament) – won 73% on 1st serve – won 58% on 2nd serve
- Has been extremely strong from the baseline – 60% baseline points won – balanced attack (41 forehand winners – 26 backhand winners)
- Has not dropped a set – on court less than 6 hours to reach the semifinals
- Dominant return of serve – 81% returns in play – 41% won returning 1st serves – 69% won returning 2nd serves – 26 breaks in 46 return games (57%)
- Overpowering forehand – 73 forehand winners
- She seems to be getting better with each match – she’s had more winners than unforced errors in her last three matches – all against seeded opponents
Sharapova leads their head to head 5-0 including straight sets wins here over Makarova in the quarterfinals in 2012 and 2013. This is a tough matchup for Makarova as both players like to take charge from the first strike – the problem being Sharapova’s first strikes have a bit more power and aggression. For Makarova to change this trend, she’ll need to serve extremely well and use placement and spin along with pace. Sharapova has been dominant returning 2nd serves and will punish anything short or weak. Sharapova’s forehand is the biggest single weapon in this match and if it’s on Sharapova can be overpowering. Makarova has been solid off both sides but the sheer pace of Sharapova’s shots has been difficult for her to handle in the past.