Novak Djokovic Is the One to Beat at Wimbledon After Nadal's Loss
When Nadal went down in the second round on Thursday at the hands of 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol, it created a huge window of opportunity for the remaining field. No longer would Nadal, who has reached the finals in his last five Wimbledons, be a threat. No longer would Djokovic—who lost to Nadal in the finals at Roland Garros just a few weeks ago—have to think about him.
But Nadal's loss also created a wake-up call. Now, instead of worrying about beating Nadal somewhere down the line at Wimbledon, all Djokovic has to worry about is making sure he doesn't suffer the same untimely fate.
And with that in mind, the world No. 1 took care of his business on Friday, rallying to defeat Radek Stephanek 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 under the retractable roof on Centre Court. He got off to as slow a start as he's had at Wimbledon this year, but he pulled himself together to reach the fourth round and further solidify himself as the one to beat.
Is there any chance Djokovic was spooked by Nadal's lackluster performance one day earlier on the same court? Is there a chance that the loss proved to be a distraction, reminding Djokovic that everyone is fallible? No way, Djokovic told the Agence France-Presse's Dave James:
I was focused on my own game. I knew Radek is a tricky opponent and very experienced. He's one of the few players who comes to the net after every first serve. He has the variety of game to hurt anyone.
Even if he claims he hasn't given it a second thought, perhaps Nadal's loss is a good thing for Djokovic. There's nothing like a colossal upset to remind you that nobody is safe—not world No. 2s, not world No. 1s. Maybe Nadal's loss is exactly what Djokovic needed to kick his own game into high gear.
Djokovic hasn't looked bad at Wimbledon, and he hasn't yet looked his most dominant. His best is still to come, which could be bad news for Victor Troicki, whom Djokovic will face with a berth to the quarterfinals on the line.
At the French Open, Djokovic didn't look like the best tennis player in the world until midway through the tournament. It wasn't until his back was against the wall—which it was a couple of times—that he started playing like he cared.
His back hasn't been against the wall at Wimbledon yet, but maybe seeing his top competition fall so early will serve the same purpose. Maybe this is the reminder he needs that no matter who you are, how many majors you've won or how high you're ranked, it's impossible to be the best unless you play like it each and every time you step onto the court.
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