Novak Djokovic stands one win away from his third straight Australian Open championship after dismantling David Ferrer. He will face Andy Murray, who survived a semifinal encounter with Roger Federer, in a star-studded final.
Djokovic is on a 20-match winning streak at the season's first Grand Slam tournament. A victory on Sunday would make him the first men's player in the Open era to take home the Aussie Open trophy three consecutive times.
The final will be the second straight titanic matchup for Murray. The first one lived up to the hype as he battled Federer for five sets before finally coming out on top. He must be prepared for another extended duel against Djokovic.
Tennis fans around the United States will have to alter their sleeping plans on Saturday night in order to watch the final, which begins at 3 a.m. on the East Coast. Let's take a look at the viewing information, followed by a match preview and prediction.
Where: Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia
When: Sunday, Jan. 27 at 3 a.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Even though Djokovic looked as dominant as ever in his semifinal victory over Ferrer, his play has hardly been impeccable throughout the event.
He needed five sets, and 22 games in the final one, to eliminate Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round. Tomas Berdych was also able to take a set from the Serbian superstar in the quarterfinals. So there were a few cracks in the Djokovic wall.
That said, if Djokovic plays like he did in his last match, there isn't a player on the planet who can beat him. He smashed 30 winners, committed just 16 errors and needed only 89 minutes to send the tournament's No. 4 seed packing.
His unmatched play in Australia over the past couple years has been a sight to behold. But several players have won the event twice in a row, and if Djokovic falls short in the final, he will become another statistic. He needs a victory to stand alone.
In order to do it, he will need to get past Murray in a rematch of last year's memorable Aussie Open semifinal. The match lasted nearly five hours with countless swings in momentum before Djokovic claimed the final set 7-5.
The two sets Murray lost to Federer were the first ones he dropped all tournament. It's a run that included victories over Gilles Simon and Jeremy Chardy, who was playing the best tennis of his career when they met in the quarterfinals.
But the 25-year-old Scot knows the level of play is going to elevate again in the final. Both players understand there will be a lot of long, grinding rallies since they are two of the most complete players on tour and know each other so well.
Djokovic has won 10 of the previous 17 matches in the rivalry, including the last two. But Murray won their last Grand Slam encounter in the final of the U.S. Open last summer as he claimed his first major championship.
That win provided an amazing boost to Murray's confidence. He used to let matches like the one against Federer slip away, especially after squandering chances in the fourth set, but now he features the mental strength necessary to win on the biggest stages.
No matter what angle you use to examine the match, it's difficult to find a distinct advantage for either player. They are both in tremendous form, and the winner will simply be decided by which player executes better on Sunday.
All told, it's hard to get past how awesome Djokovic played against Ferrer. To beat a player of that caliber without facing a single pressure point is remarkable. He looked like a man on a mission to win his third straight Australian Open, and he should do exactly that.
Djokovic in four sets
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