Novak Djokovic Now Firmly in Driver's Seat to Defend Wimbledon Title

Lindsay GibbsFeatured ColumnistJuly 8, 2015

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With his French Open heartbreak so fresh, it seemed likely heading into Wimbledon that Novak Djokovic would have a tough time defending his title.

It doesn't seem that way anymore.

In fact, the business end of the championships is setting up pretty nicely for the world No. 1.

While most of the focus has been on local hero Andy Murray and seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer, the Serb has quietly and methodically fought his way through a tricky early draw.

He dismissed the dangerous floater Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first round, easily took out wild card Bernard Tomic in the third round and then survived an inspired Kevin Anderson in a two-day, five-set match in the fourth round.

Showing no ill fitness after that marathon ended Tuesday, Djokovic came out Wednesday and routinely defeated U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic.

And now, after Richard Gasquet upset Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 11-9 in the quarterfinals, Djokovic's path to the final just became significantly smoother.

Instead of playing a match against the man who just upset him in the French Open final, Djokovic now gets to face a player who has never made it to a Grand Slam final.

Djokovic leads the head-to-head against Gasquet 11-1, has won their last nine matches and even demolished the Frenchman at Roland Garros last month.

And as if Djokovic needed yet another edge over Gasquet, the three-time Slam semifinalist is coming off a grueling five-set match, while Djokovic barely broke a sweat in his quarterfinal.

While Djokovic won't be taking Gasquet lightly, as reported by freelance journalist Carole Bouchard, it's impossible not to see the positives in that draw.

After a brutal French Open schedule that forced Djokovic to face Rafael Nadal in the quarters, Murray in the semis and Wawrinka in the final, it seems like Djokovic has finally gotten a break.

To help matters further, the other two favorites for the crown, Murray and Federer, will face off in the second semifinal.

Murray and Federer have played twice on the lawns at Wimbledon, both in 2012 finals, when Federer defeated Murray at Wimbledon and Murray repaid the favor a month later at the Summer Olympics.

Overall, Federer leads the head-to-head with Murray 12-11. The 33-year-old legend has won the last three against the Brit, including a 6-0, 6-1 drubbing in the World Tour finals last year.

While Murray was in phenomenal form coming into Wimbledon, Federer has looked like the more dangerous player throughout this fortnight.

The winner of that match is anyone's guess, but it seems as if it won't be a straightforward affair, and the winner will be worn out before reaching the final.

Once again: advantage, Djokovic.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 06:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia poses with the Gentlemen's Singles Trophy next to Roger Federer of Switzerland following his victory in the Gentlemen's Singles Final match on day thirteen of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at
Al Bello/Getty Images

Of course, Djokovic hasn't won anything yet.

If Gasquet brings his best tennis and isn't too worn out from the semifinals, he can certainly push Djokovic, and both Federer and Murray have proved they're capable of taking out Djokovic at Wimbledon.

But even Murray's co-coach, Jonas Bjorkman, thinks Djokovic is the one to beat right now.

"I still think Novak Djokovic is favorite," he told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, as reported by Camilla Turner of the Telegraph. "He's played very well this year and has the advantage of being champion."

Djokovic isn't a guy who needs a lot of breaks. He's been able to carve out a legendary career in an era with two of the greatest players of all time.

He's on a ridiculous streak of 25 straight Grand Slam quarterfinals, which isn't due to a plethora of easy draws. He's won eight major titles and has been in three of the last four Wimbledon finals, winning two of them.

He is firmly the No. 1 player in the world right now and has won two of the last four Slams. He's earned the right to be the favorite every time he steps out onto the court, and he's proved that he can defeat the best opponents on the biggest stages of the sport on a week in, week out basis.

Gasquet has a tough challenge on Friday.
Gasquet has a tough challenge on Friday.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

But hey, everyone can use a little help along the way.

Any worries about Wawrinka's forehand causing another Djokovic meltdown are now a moot point. Any concerns about his fitness or motivation after the devastating finish to the French Open are officially out the window.

This is now his tournament to lose.

Roland Garros might be the missing line on Djokovic's resume, and the Australian Open might be his most successful Slam, but Wimbledon is the trophy he grew up dreaming about.

And right now at the All England Club, everything's coming up Djokovic.