Saturday, January 29, 2011

Their Chance to Shine: Men's Final Quick Pick

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are out. It's the chance of a lifetime for Murray and Djokovic — but only one man can win.
For those of you lamenting the fates of Rafa and Roger, this may not be the Grand Slam final for you. But for those of us who've watched and waited for two of the best players of their current generation to step up to the plate and hit one out of the park, you won't want to miss this one.

Count me among the latter.

Let's not be hasty in our disappointment when it comes to Rafa and Roger — there is no reason to be sad, and each tennis deity will more than likely be back at the podium before long — because now is the time to appreciate the contributions of two players who have paid their dues, bided their time, and marched a long, patient path to be in this final.

One can argue that Djokovic and Murray have been dealt an unfair fate by being placed in the same era that saw Federer and Nadal's career arcs overlap, but I don't buy that line of reasoning. It's been an uphill battle for both Djokovic and Murray, born a week apart in May of 1987, but it has also been a good run for each.

It's not like they're playing for peanuts, and they've each had their shots to shatter through the reinforced glass that has protected Rafa and Roger for the last five years.

Still, Murray will top 16 Million in career earnings and Djokovic 22 million with a win tonight, so save your sympathy for these two.

Instead, embrace the fact that each is a remarkable talent that is either at or just prior to reaching his prime, and observe this final with the knowledge that there very well could be a changing of the guard occurring in Melbourne.

Who knows what the rest of the year will hold for Andy Murray if he wins this match tonight. All we know is that he won't really need to do anything else because he will become a national hero the moment the last ball is struck.

Just like Li Na's quest to put China on the map yesterday, Murray quest to end Great Britain's 75-year Grand Slam drought always makes for some highly compelling drama.

And what kind of confidence boost will occur inside of Novak Djokovic if he wins his second Grand Slam tonight in Melbourne Park? His new found maturity will surely lead him deep into Slams for years to come.

Once he gets his second will more fall like dominoes?

But there's no reason to look beyond today at what might be the implications of a win for either player just yet. It'd be best just to sit tight and see what each can make of this opportunity.

At this point, all we know is that we have the two most deserving players in the final. They both feature diverse, wonderfully eclectic games, and they both sense that tonight's match could be career-defining.

Isn't that enough?

Once tennis fans get past the Rafa-Roger withdrawal, they will quickly realize that the 2011 Australian Open final has the potential to be an instant classic. Both Murray and Djokovic are artists with the racquet, both are multi-dimensional; both have emerged and yet still are evolving.

Relax, sit back, and enjoy.

Why Djokovic will win: After a Davis Cup triumph and two massive wins over Roger Federer in the last two Slams, he's so high on confidence that he won't be denied. His serve is as good as it has been since the 2008 final in Melbourne, and his spirit is soaring.

Why Murray will win: Murray has never met Djokovic in a Grand Slam, but their last meeting in 2009 was one in which Djokovic wilted under the hot sun of Miami. On a hot night in Melbourne, he'll take tremendous belief into the match, and he'll use this belief to quell his nerves.

Why Djokovic will lose: The heat will get to him.

Why Murray will lose: His serve — or lack thereof — will put him behind the 8-ball.

Pick: Djokovic in 4

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