After what may have been the most exciting match fans will see in the Australian Open this year, Novak Djokovic faces some looming questions.
Djokovic defeated Stanislas Wawrinka 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7, 12-10 on Sunday in a match that saw Djokovic get off to a slow start and battle through several unforced errors to eventually capture the victory over the No. 15 seed in the tournament.
Djokovic was expected to waltz through the top half of the men’s draw with Rafael Nadal not participating in the tournament. Andy Murray and Roger Federer are competing in the lower half of the bracket, and Djokovic’s toughest challengers were expected to be David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych.
Both Ferrer and Berdych won their Round 4 matches in straight sets, leaving a quarterfinals match with Berdych to decide whether Djokovic will face either Ferrer or Nicolas Almagro in the semifinals.
Berdych is the No. 5 seed in the tournament, and after a shaky performance on Sunday, Djokovic is faced with an even tougher opponent in the quarterfinals. Djokovic rebounded from a tough 1-6 first set in Round 4, but he certainly showed a sense of vulnerability in the five-set victory.
Djokovic is the No. 1 player in the world, and after winning the last two Australian Open tournaments, he was the heavy favorite to recreate that feat for the fourth time in his career. Djokovic may well power through the top half of the draw, but it won’t be easy.
Berdych has failed to drop a set in the tournament, and he’s playing his best tennis right now. Given Djokovic’s struggles against Wawrinka and the physical exertion of such a long match, Berdych enters the quarterfinals with a better chance than many would have expected when the tournament began.
If Djokovic is to rebound in the quarterfinals and walk away with a victory, he will have to clean up his play early in the match. Unforced errors were the main reason he fell behind early, though Wawrinka did play an incredibly solid match throughout. Still, Djokovic can’t afford to fall behind Berdych early and risk losing momentum over the No. 5 seed.
With expectations so high and a less-than-perfect performance in Round 4, Djokovic must once again find his focus in preparation for the quarterfinals. If he fails to come out with more focus and intensity against Berdych, unforced errors could sink his chances from the onset.
Djokovic can still make a push for the finals and a possible meeting with either Murray or Federer, as many expect to be the case, but he must recover from his match with Wawrinka and regain his composure going forward.