Roger Federer Can Make a Big Statement on Thursday's Play at the Australian Open

Clay MorrisCorrespondent IIJanuary 16, 2013

Roger Federer and Nikolay Davydenko after their 2010 Australian Open Quarterfinal
Roger Federer and Nikolay Davydenko after their 2010 Australian Open QuarterfinalClive Brunskill/Getty Images

If Novak Djokovic's idea of a night on the town includes a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 thrashing of the 20-year-old Ryan Harrison, then he must have been loving the nightlife on Wednesday night in Melbourne as he thoroughly overwhelmed his opponent in around an hour-and-a-half.

It wasn't that Harrison played poorly; the young American had a first-serve percentage of 63 percent and saved seven break points. His undoing, unfortunately for Harrison and to his credit, wasn't really an undoing at all. Rather it was a masterful display by the Serbian Djokovic, who never let up with crippling forehands stretching from either end of the court and seemingly impenetrable defensive adeptness.

After such a performance from the No. 1 seed, it now becomes vitally important for his closest rivals to attempt to make a similar statement. 

Roger Federer can accomplish just that.

The World No. 2, and often cited as the greatest of all time, can make a statement in his second-round match at the 2013 Australian Open. And, for all intents and purposes, he will.

Federer's opponent in the second round is not an unfamiliar one. A former lingering presence in the top 10, Nikolay Davydenko of Russia has struggled in his last few years on tour with injury and inconsistency.

This year at the Aussie Open, Davydenko comes in off of a finals run in Doha, a tournament where he has had success in the past, as his form of old begins to materialize. In contrast, Federer enters the first major of the year not having played a match on tour since November of 2012 at the ATP World Tour Finals.

Before 2009, Davydenko was known to be a major threat to all of the field, with laser accuracy and flawless backhand form, but he always labored and ultimately surrendered to the Swiss Maestro Federer.

Federer had sent Davydenko packing on 12 consecutive occasions from 2002 through 2008. It wasn't until the semifinals of the World Tour Finals in 2009, however, that Nikolay finally got the better of the Swiss in three tightly contested and engaging sets, notching his first ever win over Federer head-to-head.

Davydenko would go on to win the year-end title, his biggest achievement in his career to date. The result may have been somewhat unanticipated, but the rattling surprise came when Davydenko again defeated Federer a couple of months later in 2010 at Doha.

It wasn't until their match at the Australian Open of that year, though, that fans of the 17-time Grand Slam champion in Roger Federer began to worry.

Meeting in the quarterfinals or better of a Grand Slam for the fifth time, the quarterfinal matchup between Federer and Davydenko at the 2010 Australian Open was much-hyped. The tennis world knew that Davydenko had been playing some of his best tennis ever in the past few months, but Federer had also looked unyielding in his earlier matches that year at Melbourne.

Despite the Swiss champion's three previous titles at the Australian Open, it was Davydenko who took the first set in a hurry. Nikolay was pummeling the Federer backhand, using a combination of first-strike tennis and measured rallying, and breaking serve without hesitation. There was a certain monotonous yet trampling tone to each and every deeply placed Davydenko groundstroke.

Nikolay appeared automated. And Roger appeared flustered.

Soon enough, the Russian was up a break in the third. Then, more break points for Davydenko to go up a double break. It was beginning to look ominous for Federer, the same sort of impending bane that had taken shape in the form of the dark horse Juan Martin Del Potro in the U.S. Open finals the year prior.

But it was at 2-3 down in the second set that Federer's intensity picked up. The come-ons got louder. The backhand settled down and the winners began flying.

Out of nowhere, Roger had the break back, followed by an easy hold. And after all the fantastic shot-making and athleticism had been expended, it was all for naught as the Russian crumbled at the sight of the valiant charge of the Fed-Express.

Sure enough, Davydenko failed to win another game for the remainder of the set. Federer would win the match 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5.

Though the scoreline didn't seem particularly epic or notable, the match was incredibly significant to the locker room and certainly to Roger. He had turned the screw once again in the Davydenko matchup. He had once again solved the new and improved puzzles laid in front of him by the uniquely crafty former world No. 3.

Roger Federer did not drop another set after putting the pieces back together in his win over Davydenko, and he would go on to win his fourth Australian Open title and claim the 16th overall Grand Slam of his monstrous and truly legendary career.

It is Federer's exclusive skills in improvisation, resolution and confidence that must and will be on display in his match against Davydenko in Thursday's second-round play. And it is these skills that will cement him as one of the title favorites at this year's Australian Open, despite the remaining level of difficulty of players in his section of the draw. 

Davydenko is a proven veteran, and anyone who disputes this has not seen his body of work in the form of big wins and even bigger titles. Though it's clear that he isn't playing at the same standard he was three years ago, the framework for a sensational player lives on, and thusly so does the respect he procures.

Davydenko will fight, but Federer will overtake him. What will be critical about the outcome of the match, and thereby the impact it will make on the rest of the tennis field, is the fashion in which Federer will achieve victory: with greater ease than many tennis fans and pundits alike are forecasting.

Ryan Harrison is an up-and-coming young gun, with a couple of big weapons that have the potential to do damage to the tour, but he is not the tried-and-true formula that is the machine-like Nikolay Davydenko.

With a straight-sets win over the Russian, Federer will make his statement, much like the statement made by Djokovic on Wednesday night. But the dissimilarities in their declarations will be clear: Pacifying the inexperienced pup is a very different thing to suppressing the seasoned and accomplished adversary.    


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