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World Cup Final 2018 Pick- France vs Croatia (July 15th)

I can't believe a month at the World Cup is about o come to a close on Sunday and I have to say the tournament has been about as good as...

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Australian Open Day 14 Picks 2015- Men's Final Live Blog (February 1st)

So where are all the people that complain about the women being paid the same as the men on the tennis Tour? The Final between Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams was full of world class tennis and while the match was completed in two sets, it was still a fascinating two sets that the fans got to enjoy.

Serena Williams winning the title was less of a surprise considering her dominance of Maria Sharapova in the head to head, but it was close a match as they have had in recent seasons and she has to take the positives from the match. Of course the negative view, which I did have immediately after the match, was that Sharapova had given it her absolute best and still couldn't take a set off of Williams.

Hopefully we will get answers to whether Sharapova is getting closer to finally beating Williams for the first time since the end of the 2004 season over the course of the season. With the way these two played in the Final, whose to argue that we won't see at least one more Grand Slam Final competed by the top two players in the World Rankings.

I will be doing a live blog for the men's Final between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray on Sunday morning so hopefully some of you can join me then.

Novak Djokovic win 3-1 v Andy Murray: I remember reading an article last season where Novak Djokovic was essentially implying that him and his team think they have the physical edge over Andy Murray and that is a big reason for his strong winning record against the British Number 1.

However, the big question for me going into the Australian Open Final is what kind of condition does Novak Djokovic feel in at the moment- he admitted there were lapses in the Semi Final win over Stan Wawrinka, although he would have been very pleased to get through the fifth set in timely manner after allowing an early break to get away from him in the fourth set.

Djokovic came into the Grand Slam tournament with doubts about his fitness following an illness and there is a suggestion that he isn't fully recovered. He will also be coming up against Andy Murray who has shown he is close to being back to his best over the last two weeks and looks in great condition.

Murray has been more aggressive in his play and he will have to bring that kind of mentality into this one if he is to win his third Grand Slam title by beating Novak Djokovic. He has done that at the US Open and at Wimbledon, but their most recent Slam encounter came at the US Open last September and was won by Djokovic.

There is no doubt that Murray will believe he is in much better shape than he was in September, and he looks a lot happier on the court than he did at any time during the 2014 season as he recovered from back surgery. He also seems to be playing with a chip on his shoulder surrounding the criticism of his appointing Amelie Mauresmo as his Coach, but all of this won't matter if the World Number 1 is on form.

The match is going to be won or lost by Novak Djokovic in my opinion- if he is physically feeling good, I would think he will come through the tough first couple of sets before pulling away from Murray. This has been a feature of their previous matches at Grand Slam level, outside of that Final at Wimbledon, and Djokovic is more than capable of adding yet another Australian Open trophy to his ever-increasing trophy cabinet.

At the US Open last season, the first two sets were split before Djokovic lost just 6 more games in the final two sets. At the Australian Open two years ago, the first two sets were split before Djokovic went on to lose just 7 more games.

The US Open that Murray won against Djokovic saw Murray win the first two sets 76, 75 before winning just 7 games in the next two sets before the Serb was finally exhausted.

That is becoming something of a trend that Djokovic can come through the long tough sets and be in a better place physically and that is my biggest concern about this match. Andy Murray can win it if Djokovic is feeling tired, but I think they split the first two sets before the World Number 1 takes control and comes through in four sets.

The Final between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray should be a good one between two players that have known each other a long time and faced off in numerous Grand Slam Finals already. The World Number 1 goes off as the favourite, but there are some question marks about his physical shape ahead of the match which will be answered over the next three hours.

Novak Djokovic 1-0* Andy Murray: A comfortable opening service game for Novak Djokovic with some quality tennis to show he has settled in.

Novak Djokovic *1-1 Andy Murray: Andy Murray's second serve lets him down somewhat and that is going to be a key to this match. It is an attackable shot and Djokovic wins three points against it to get to deuce.

However, a bad call from one of the line judges helps Murray get out of that game.

Djokovic 2-1* MurrayA couple of blistering forehands from Andy Murray help him bring up three break points in a row, the first of the match.

But Novak Djokovic shows why he is the World Number 1 with a couple of top serves before Murray misses his third chance by failing to get a ball back in play.

Twice Djokovic gets up to the net to put away a couple of volleys... He also has a drop shot early in the match which will raise some questions about how he is feeling physically.

Djokovic *3-1 MurrayNovak Djokovic doesn't mind trading from the back of the court in this game and he hits three absolutely brilliant winners to bring up three consecutive break points of his own.

He misses the first when perhaps he shouldn't have, but then Djokovic hits a clean winner off yet another wide serve from Andy Murray to the forehand and moves ahead.

Djokovic 4-1* Murray: Andy Murray wins the first point of the game, but Novak Djokovic has really got the shot down the line working from both the forehand and backhand wins.

No moves forward since the third game, but Djokovic still comfortably comes through to hold.

Djokovic*4-2 MurrayIt looks like Novak Djokovic is not going to be shy about coming to the net in this one once he has Andy Murray on the move.

Comfortable enough hold for Murray in the end, but the aggressive tennis definitely being played by Djokovic and his shots down the line are still working off both wings.

Djokovic 4-3* MurrayAndy Murray brings up two break points after Novak Djokovic decides to try serve-volley tactics which results in a pass for the British Number 1.

The first of those is saved with another shot down the line bringing an error from the Murray racquet, but I imagine Murray will be a lot more disappointed with the way he missed the second after a forehand error following a dominant rally.

Not the end of this chances though as another break point is brought up and Murray is perhaps a little fortunate to find a couple of lines before another Djokovic error helps Murray bring this back on serve.

Djokovic *5-3 MurrayJust when it looks like Andy Murray is beginning to win the longer rallies, Novak Djokovic digs deep to pull this game back to 30-30.

The Serb is then the beneficiary of a fortunate net cord which bounces out and produces a break point to take command of the set again.

He can't make it four points in a row though with an absolutely stunning miss on a second serve return, just what you wouldn't expect from the best returner on the ATP Tour.

Another break point is earned from a Murray error and this time Djokovic does get the second serve return into play which is quickly followed by another error from the other side of the net.

Djokovic 5-4* MurraySome great defensive lobs from Andy Murray, plus some poor smash/volleys from Novak Djokovic help build a 15-30 lead.

A wonderful backhand down the line brings up two break points and there is no doubt that Djokovic has some type of problem with his thumb. A tentative rally is finally ended by an injection of pace from Murray which leads to a forced error and going back on serve.

Djokovic *5-5 MurrayTrainer on to see Novak Djokovic who is also pretty disgusted with some loud noises coming from the crowd midway during the last point.

There seem to be a lot of errors ending points, but the quality of tennis can't be under-stated between these two players.

Andy Murray moves through the game comfortably to level the set.

Djokovic 6-5* MurrayIt just feels like Andy Murray is building up some steam in this set now as he wins the first point against serve in the eleventh game of the set.

Some big serving gets Novak Djokovic through the game comfortably from there though.

Djokovic 6-6 MurrayThis time it is Andy Murray having a little moan at the umpire during the changeover as he comes out to serve to stay in the set.

A brutal opening rally is followed by three quick points for Murray and yet again these two have to go into a tie break in the first set of a Grand Slam Final.

Djokovic 7-6* MurrayThis now means four of their last five Grand Slam matches have needed a tie-break to separate these two in the first set.

Novak Djokovic can't make a much worse start by double faulting away the first point, but he retrieves the mini-break before getting the balls back.

Another error from Djokovic and a heavy backhand down the line from Murray means it is the latter who leads on the turnaround by 4 points to 2.

Ouch- Murray with a terrible double fault to hand back the mini-break advantage and then another long, brutal rally ends with Murray dumping the ball into the net and it is back to 4-4. Loads of tension now and the winner of this set is going to strike a significant blow it feels.

Yet another error from Murray gives Novak Djokovic a 5-4 lead, but the British Number 1 isn't taking a backwards step at the moment. There has been some great tennis in this set despite the obvious tension that both players have played with at times.

Great defence from Djokovic, but a really poor miss from Murray at the net and it is the Number 1 Seed with set point. The errors have been streaming from Murray's racquet in the last moments of this set and another on a second serve return gives Djokovic the set.

Djokovic *7-6, 0-1 MurraySo how much of an impact will that have on Andy Murray? It wasn't just losing the set, but the manner of the way he dropped it and the effort, both physical and mental, that he has already exerted in the match.

Murray has to open the second set serving well and he does that with a hold to 15.

Djokovic 7-6, 0-2* MurrayI am still not convinced that Djokovic is at 100% from a physical standpoint and there have been a couple of 'limps' during his first service game of the set.

Two break points for Andy Murray and Djokovic is gesturing uncomfortably to his box- maybe going to need the trainer for a different body part in a moment as it looks he has done something to his ankle.

Murray only needs the first to move ahead in the second set.

Djokovic *7-6, 1-2 MurrayBetter movement from Novak Djokovic during this game considering how he was looking five minutes ago and that has brought up a break point.

Poor game from Murray after he dumps the ball into the middle of the net and hands back the initiative to his opponent.

Djokovic 7-6, 2-2* MurrayAndrew Castle and John Lloyd, essentially glorified Murray cheerleaders, seem to be a little critical of Djokovic's body language, but it isn't like Murray hasn't used those 'tactics' in the past.

Match is so up and down at the moment and it is Murray who builds a 0-30 lead in this one, but he just can't stem the errors coming from his racquet.

Four straight points levels up the set for Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic *7-6, 3-2 MurrayThe alarm bells must be going off for Andy Murray as he can't stem the tide of errors coming from his racquet and it brings up three break points for Novak Djokovic.

Just needs one of those points and Djokovic is now up a break after being down 2-0 early in the set.

Djokovic 7-6, 4-2* MurrayAndy Murray can't get any control back in this match and the errors continue to stream off the racquet. Ace for Djokovic wraps up hold to love and consolidates his break.

Djokovic *7-6, 4-3 MurrayDing, ding, ding... Double fault to open the game puts more pressure on Andy Murray, but he does very well to turn it around and win three straight points before a big serve helps him take the game to 30.

Still in this set, but only just at the moment.

Djokovic 7-6, 4-4* MurrayBit of extra drama off the court as some sort of protest holds things up at the changeover. Bloody fools.

Momentum was all in the direction of Novak Djokovic prior to that, but I do wonder if that has broken that run.

At 15-30, you can't afford to miss the second serve return, but that is what Murray does which is followed by another loud anguished cry. Definitely been a more aggressive Murray in this game and that brings up a break point.

At times Murray can sometimes take a backwards step in the big moments, but not this time and the aggression brings the set level again.

Djokovic *7-6, 4-5 MurrayYou can't say that idiotic protest hasn't worked in favour of Andy Murray who comfortably comes through his service game.

Novak Djokovic serving to stay in the set.

Djokovic 7-6, 5-5* MurrayA big miss from Andy Murray at 15-0 sees the British player scolding himself, and helps Novak Djokovic build a 40-0 lead as he serves to stay in this set.

Lots of quality tennis mixed in with some unforced errors as the tension rises.

Poor volleying from Djokovic means we are back at deuce, and another error gives Murray his first set point.

Murray just gets a little tense again at the big moment and dumps a ball into the net.

Long game this one, but Djokovic takes his third chance to get out of it and the quality of tennis is once again getting up to the level of what we saw in the first set.

Djokovic *7-6, 5-6 MurrayNo mention from Cheerleader Lloyd or Cheerleader Castle, but the protest break has really helped Andy Murray get back into this set. However, he missed the big chance to move into a third set and all the pressure is on him to make sure he stays ahead and at least forces a tie-breaker.

The net-cord goes Murray's way in this hugely important eleventh game, but a Djokovic service return winner brings it back to 30 all.

The service hold in the last game has brought Djokovic's best tennis back to the fore and he carries that over to earn a break point.

First one is saved with a decent first serve, but Djokovic hits another winner to bring up a second break point although Murray keeps hanging on by his finger tips.

Great defensive skills from Djokovic lead to yet another break point, but Murray's will is yet to shatter.

Two huge points from Murray to hold on to serve and at least earn a tie-break out of set two.

Djokovic 7-6, 6-6 MurrayYou can see why so few people who actually follow tennis through the season can take Andrew Castle seriously- he has concluded these two are the top two players in the world, but it seems to be based on this one tournament, a completely false assertion.

On the court, Novak Djokovic serves to love and it is a second tie-breaker in this Final.

Djokovic *7-6, 6-7 MurrayThis hasn't been an uncommon occurrence either- two of the last three Grand Slam matches between the pair before today saw the first two sets end in tie-breakers. Absolutely vital for Murray to win this one you'd feel and he quickly moves into a 4-1 lead.

A sense of deja vu with Murray leading 4-2 as the players turn around on the court.

Commanding lead for Murray now as he goes a double mini-break up and now has two serves to win the second set.

Four set points for Murray- two go by, but the third is taken and it's 1-1 in set.

Djokovic 7-6, 6-7, 0-1* MurrayOutside of that Final at Wimbledon in 2013, this match has very strong resemblances to three of their last four Grand Slam matches against one another. The first two sets on each of those occasions has lasted 25, 26 and 26 games, but it is Novak Djokovic who has then taken control of the next two sets on each of those occasions by winning sets 62, 64, 62, 63, 62, 63.

Djokovic has noted he feels he can physically out-last Murray if he is in this position so now he has the time to prove it.

It isn't going to plan right now though with Andy Murray bringing up two break points immediately- he takes the first of those and moves ahead in this Final for the first time.

Djokovic *7-6, 6-7, 0-2 MurrayThe physical strength is on the side of Andy Murray early in this third set and Novak Djokovic barely made an effort in that game.

Djokovic 7-6, 6-7, 1-2* MurrayEasy game for Novak Djokovic, which is exactly what the doctor would have ordered.

Needs to find some inspiration from somewhere though to get back into this set.

Djokovic *7-6, 6-7, 2-2 MurrayMaybe that return of serve winner will be the inspiration I was talking about! Net cord also doesn't go Andy Murray's way and Novak Djokovic has a slight opening at 0-30.

Well, well, well, it's more than an opening as two break points are brought up by Djokovic- Murray complains about Djokovic perhaps 'faking' which is ironic, and Novak takes a second break point to get back on serve.

Djokovic 7-6, 6-7, 3-2* MurrayAndy Murray is furious at the end of that game as Novak Djokovic battles through to take the lead in this set. Out of the two, Djokovic is showing more signs of tiredness so I am wondering if his Semi Final being played a day later is having an impact.

Momentum back on the Serbian's side though.

Djokovic *7-6, 6-7, 3-3 Murray: Easy hold for Andy Murray, but I think that is also down to the fact that Novak Djokovic is perhaps conserving some energy.

Not the time to be running around, defending, while the score is 40-0.

Djokovic 7-6, 6-7, 4-3* MurrayThere just seems to be a little more coming from Andy Murray's side of the court, especially once the rallies move beyond the four/five shots.

Break point but a huge play from Novak Djokovic to hold on with a drop volley that Andy Murray barely missed getting to. Big serving sees the Serb hold serve.

Djokovic *7-6, 6-7, 5-3 Murray:The commentary provided by Andrew Castle is easily the worst aspect of this Final so far as he 'doesn't like' Novak Djokovic celebrating saving the break point with his box... Without swearing.

Unlike Kim Sears abusing Tomas Berdych of course, which was hilarious(!)

Huge start to this game for Novak Djokovic who moves into a 0-30 lead and has Andy Murray complaining to his box about something or other.

Three break points and Andy Murray is absolutely fuming.

Saved the first with a big serve, but pressure gets to Murray and he double faults the game away which means Novak Djokovic serves for the set.

Djokovic 7-6, 6-7, 6-3* MurrayAndy Murray is furious, but his attempted racquet 'smash' is appalling!

Positive sounds from Murray after he takes the first point of this game, but he doesn't build on it as he produces three errors in a row to give Novak Djokovic two set points.

Djokovic takes the third set with a big serve.

Djokovic *7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 1-0 MurrayI did mention the strength of Novak Djokovic over Andy Murray in their three previous Grand Slam matches that have seen at least 25 games played in the first two sets. It was another 6-3 set for Djokovic and this is the time for Murray to show if he has really improved as a player from a physical standpoint.

He was beginning to show outward signs of tiredness at the end of the third set so opening game of fourth is critical for him to get his nose in front.

Pressure already on Murray as he serves at 30 all and Djokovic pummels a second serve onto the baseline to bring up break point.

Another error from the Murray racquet and it is Djokovic who takes it and moves into a commanding position in the match.

Djokovic 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 2-0* MurrayIt was 0-15, but Novak Djokovic produces a brilliant pass and then follows it with two big serves.

Great exchange at the net which Murray comes out on top, but those are getting less frequent and Djokovic consolidates the break.

Djokovic *7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 3-0 MurrayThis could be the moment that this Final gets beyond Andy Murray as a couple of tired shots opens the door for Novak Djokovic at 15-30.

Big serve from Murray is returned to the middle of the court, but he inexplicably misses and it is two more break points for Djokovic to take a double break into the changeover.

Second serve is returned for a winner and Novak Djokovic is three games from the title with a double break.

Djokovic 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 4-0* MurrayThe mishits are more frequent, and the physical strength is definitely on Novak Djokovic's side of the court.

There will be no giving up by Andy Murray as Novak Djokovic makes a couple of really poor decisions to fall back to deuce, but solid serving and dictating the points helps the World Number 1 consolidate the double break.

Djokovic *7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 5-0 MurrayNo one wants to see someone suffer a bagel in a Final, but Andy Murray is going to have to put a lot of effort into this game to prevent that happening.

Any energy levels left for a comeback will have to be used now as Murray goes 0-30 behind and now he has to save two break points.

A huge return from Djokovic lands way in and Murray effectively gives it up by opting to challenge and that looks like game, set and Championship for Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-0So Novak Djokovic has won 11 of the last 12 games with his physical strength overmatching Andy Murray again.

Djokovic openly said this after their US Open Quarter Final- as long as Murray doesn't get too big a lead, Djokovic feels he can physically out-last him on a tennis court.

Happened in two of the last three Grand Slam matches they have played, and definitely happened again today.

Novak Djokovic takes the second match point and is the Australian Open Champion for the fifth time in a row.

Novak Djokovic Wins the Australian Open Men's Title: It looked a little iffy for Novak Djokovic at the beginning of the third set, but I think it is a really big worry in the manner that Andy Murray fell apart.

Physically he is unable to stay with someone like Djokovic and that is tough for a player that doesn't always want to take the aggressive approach to matches and settles into these long rallies that is draining him more than the World Number 1.

I don't buy that the negativity cost Andy Murray in that match like John Lloyd was suggesting and I don't blame the fact that he has Amelie Mauresmo in his corner- this isn't about a lack of talent, this is about someone who just doesn't have that extra physicality on the court that Novak Djokovic can bring.

At the very top of sport, these 'minor' differences are the ones that create 'greatness' compared with someone who is 'very good'.

And those gaps are very tough to bridge- the only way for Murray to do that is to shorten points, don't get drawn into the long rallies and try and conserve energy for the latter stages of these matches against the very best players.

It's a good start to the 2015 season for Murray, but he might have to go back to the tactics board when he does run into Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal later in the season.

MY PICK: Novak Djokovic Win 3-1 @ 4.20 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)

Australian Open Update: 35-23, + 26.15 Units (110 Units Staked, + 23.77% Yield)

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