In Melbourne, defending champion Johan Kriek and Steve Denton will stage a rematch of last year's final when they meet today in the title match of the $450,000 tournament.

Kriek, the South African top seed, reached the final by beating Paul McNamee of Australia, 7-6, 7-6, 4-6, 3-6, 7-5, in a gruelling semifinal. Denton also was extended to five sets before defeating hard-serving fellow American Hank Pfister, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6.

It is the first time since 1967 that the same two players have met in consecutive finals of the Australian championship. Then, Roy Emerson of Australia defeated Arthur Ashe of the U.S. for the second time in a row for his fifth straight Australian Open title.

Last year, Kriek defeated Denton in four sets.

Today, McNamee had one match point against Kriek, but the 1981 champion escaped. Earlier, in the sixth game of the fourth set, Kriek slid head first into an umpire's chair while racing to make a return shot. But he was not seriously injured.

Kriek, 24, said McNamee "gets so hyped up he can hit winners from anywhere on the court. The first two sets were unbelievably hard and I was putting so much effort into winning them."

The dejected McNamee said afterward, "It's a big disappointment and I'm exhausted. I can't figure out what more I could have done. In the end, I thought I was going to win."