Jan 26, 2018
Jan 26, 2018

Australian Open 2018: Mats Wilander's finals preview

Can Cilic beat Federer?

Is Halep vs. Wozniacki too close to call?

What impact could the finals have on the rest of the season?

Australian Open 2018: Mats Wilander's finals preview

Credit: Getty Images

We’ve now reached the finals weekend at the Australian Open. Pinnacle’s brand ambassador Mats Wilander has taken a look at the two singles matches and explained who he thinks will win and what might help you pick a winner.

There have been plenty of ups and downs during the Australian Open but as we head into the finals weekend, it’s safe to say we’ve got two great matches to look forward to. Roger Federer might be the obvious choice for the Men’s Australian Open title but Marin Cilic definitely has a chance. When it comes to the Women’s final, it’s anyone’s to lose.

Roger Federer vs. Marin Cilic

It’s always a shame to see a player have to retire from a match and although we must give Rafael Nadal and Hyeon Chung credit for their performances, it feels like the script was written for this Federer vs. Cilic showdown.

Despite it being the fifth match in ten days for these players, they will be coming into it full of energy and we can certainly expect some great tennis - they have been two of the best three players in the last 12 months (Rafael Nadal probably comes between them in that respect).

A win against the best player in the world and a second Grand Slam title could be a springboard to help Cilic achieve great things in the rest of 2018.

Cilic has proven he has the ability to beat anyone and the fact that he’s done it before will give him a massive confidence boost - his impressive straight-sets win over Federer in the US Open semi-final might have been almost three years ago but it will still be fresh in his memory.

The extra day’s rest may mean Cilic has longer to work on his game plan and gives him more time to practice to ensure he is at his peak when they take to the court for the final. That could be vital, as he will have to be at his absolute best to beat Roger Federer.

During the Australian Open, Federer has proven once again why he is seen as the best player of all-time. He’s adapted his style, strengthened aspects of his game that could barely be described as a weakness and has shown that he can take risks when he needs to.

Simona Halep vs. Caroline Wozniacki

Most people will agree that Serena Williams has been the main focus for the women’s game in recent years. Whether it was her quest to catch Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graff or now the all-time record for Grand Slam titles, there hasn’t been much else to talk about. Now, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki will take centre stage - and rightly so.

Both women could be given the crown for the best player not to win a major title but that will all change when they meet at the Rod Laver Arena this weekend. As if their fight to win their first career Slam wasn’t enough, it’s the World No. 1 vs. World No. 2 so whoever wins will be the best, and most consistent player in the world right now.

The difference between losing a third Grand Slam final and being World No. 2 and winning your first Grand Slam and being World No. 1 is so huge that whoever is on the wrong end of it will have a hard time trying to recover.

Beyond the story of the two women and their careers, this is an intriguing matchup. They’re both “counter-punchers” when it comes to their style - they aren’t the type to beat themselves with mistakes, they have to be beaten. We can expect a physical encounter with both of them perhaps being even more defensive than usual given how much is on the line.

If you’re trying to pick a winner out of the two, the fact that Halep has had a rough ride through this tournament (she has played in two of the longest matches and twisted her ankle in her first-round match against Destanee Aiava).

Halep and Wozniacki are in a unique situation but it has the makings of a great tennis match - they will both be so desperate to win that first Grand Slam. I played Evan Lendl in the final of the US Open in 1988 and although we were playing for the World No. 1 ranking, my sole focus was on going to war on the court and coming out with the win. Whatever came after was an added bonus.

What impact could the finals have on the rest of the season?

While all the attention will be on the two matches this weekend, the results can also have a major impact on what happens for the rest of the season for all the player’s involved and the sports in general.

The pressure will be on Federer to defend his Australian Open title (he hasn’t successfully defended a Slam for almost six years) and that’s a really big deal when you’re a player. If he manages to beat Cilic, he will go into the rest of the season feeling unbeatable and that could be really dangerous for the other guys on the tour.

Similarly, a win for Cilic would take him to the next level. Winning a Grand Slam is a great feeling but to become a multiple-Grand Slam winner really is something else. A win against the best player in the world and a second Grand Slam title could be a springboard to help him achieve great things in the rest of 2018.

It feels like it’s make or break for Halep and Wozniacki. The difference between losing a third Grand Slam final and being World No. 2 and winning your first Grand Slam and being World No. 1 is so huge that whoever is on the wrong end of it will have a hard time trying to recover and pick themselves up for the remaining three Slams this season.

Whoever wins will feel like they’ve got that monkey off their back, they will be welcomed back to their home country like a hero and reap the benefits and opportunities that come with winning a major title.

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