It's already been decided that there will not be an unprecedented fifth consecutive Grand Slam final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, after Nadal's surprising early exit at Wimbledon to Lukas Rosol.
Nadal's loss was one of several upsets in the early rounds of Wimbledon, including former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and 2011 U.S. Open champ Sam Stosur.
While Nadal's loss means that Djokovic's road to a second consecutive Wimbledon is an easier one, Djokovic must make sure he does not fall victim to the same fate as Nadal. Djokovic has played well so far, but he is not even halfway to the championship, and he still must defeat four more opponents.
Djokovic's biggest challenge will be to avoid complacency now that his biggest rival is out of his path. Djokovic's Super Monday opponent, Viktor Troicki, is from Serbia—as is Djokovic—and the two are good friends.
Djokovic has beaten Troicki in 11 of the 12 times they have played, and he is clearly the better tennis player. Yet Troicki is a very good player who has come close to beating some of the biggest names in the sport in the past, only to fall short. If Djokovic takes his foot off the gas, he could find himself in a hole against Troicki.
Djokovic also must avoid falling behind early, as he did in his third-round match against Radek Stepanek, where Stehanek won the first set 6-4 before Djokovic came back to win three sets, each 6-2. Stepanek is a good competitor, but he is not as strong as the favorite to be Djokovic's opponent in the quarterfinals, Richard Gasquet. And he's nowhere in the same stratosphere as Roger Federer, who is on a collision course to meet Djokovic in the semifinal.
Nadal demonstrated the dangers of letting an inferior opponent stay in the game for too long. Though Nadal won the first set, it was far too close for comfort. He never got in his rhythm, causing him to lose the next two sets. Though he briefly returned to something approximating his French Open form, by that point his opponent, Lukas Rosol, had too much momentum to defeat.
Djokovic played marvelously after Stepanek beat him in the first set and never looked back, but he cannot count on the ability to come back against stronger opponents in the later rounds.
The 2012 Wimbledon tournament is an important one for Djokovic's legacy. His five career Grand Slam titles have already established his legacy as an all-time great, and he's already punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame. But in order to be listed amongst the true elite of the sport, Djokovic will have to win a few more major tournaments.
He is in the prime of his career, and he must take every advantage to add trophies to his trophy case, particularly if the path to victory doesn't run through his greatest opponent and the competitor most capable of beating him on any given day. Anything less would be a disappointment for the Djoker.
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