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At U.S. Open, Djokovic match-fit?


Novak Djokovic of Serbia / Michael Reaves/Getty Images/AFP

Novak Djokovic of Serbia / Michael Reaves/Getty Images/AFP

Novak Djokovic’s march to the semifinals generates more questions than the scores of his few matches. Never before has one player been the beneficiary of the inability of potential or real opponents to either compete or continue. As the defending champion, this unusual spectacle brings to mind the Davis Cup competition of yore.

Until there was a change in the format, the nation holding the Davis Cup in one year did not have to play until one nation emerged from the field in the succeeding year. The final match was appropriately called the challenger tie.

The world’s number one came to New York, nursing a bulging left wrist; needed for ball toss and his lethal two-handed backhand. He faced a stiff battle in the first round, surviving Jerzey Janowicz in four sets. Could the Czech have scored an upset in the first round and marched to the semi-finals on the luck of the draw? In the second round, Djokovic did not have to compete when Jiri Vesely withdrew. In Round three, Mikhail Youzhny dropped out after losing first two sets. He did not have a tough match in defeating his fourth round opponent. Then, in the quarter-finals, French pugilist, Joe Wilfried Tsonga, stepped down after losing the first two sets, due to injury to his left knee. Despite the scores (6/3; 6/2) it was indeed a contest.

The master of defence handled the awesome power of Tsonga, who committed 36 unforced errors, contrasted with only 11 winners. He was compelled to attempt winning shots to counter Djokovic’s consistency.

What happened to the hero of the previous round? Match fatigue or hangover from euphoria could have contributed to Gael Monfils’ one-sided drubbing of Rafael Nadal’s conqueror Lucas Pouille. It was a long match that could have gone either way.

We recall the critical forehand netted by Nadal, a sitting winner that could have given him a lead in the fifth set. However, Monfils deserved his victory, in his progression. He has not lost a set en route to the last four. Only once did he require a tie break to fend off his third round opponent. He described his victory over a compatriot, at a Press Interview. “I’m happy with my performance. It is never easy to play against a French guy. I handled it pretty good mentally and tennistically.” In his French-English, the colourful Parisian was adding another word to our lexicon, as he meant to say “tennis-wise”?

The only player, like Monfils, to have reached the quarter-finals without dropping a set is Juan Martin del Potro, who will face Stan Warwinka, while Andy Murray will battle Japan’s Kei Nishikori in a battle of two ground stroke masters.

Match-play without being worn out is essential for a champion to rise exponentially for peak performance in the finals. Novak Djokovic has had only two complete matches in five rounds, and a mere six hours and 26 minutes of play thus far. This lack of tough competition may affect his result in the concluding days.

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Novak DjokovicU.S. Open
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