Wimbledon 2011: Crucial Match for Novak Djokovic Against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

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Wimbledon 2011: Crucial Match for Novak Djokovic Against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

It's unfortunate we didn't get the match we were waiting for: a repeat of the French Open semis, i.e. Novak Djokovic versus Roger Federer.

I know, there is a lot of excitement for the match between Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray with the entire United Kingdom probably waiting with bated breath. However, as a tennis purist and aficionado, it was the Djokovic-Federer match that brought the thrills of watching two master exponents in the art of playing tennis.

No disrespect to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who played like a true champion and a man possessed after being two sets to nil down, but the match was Federer's to lose. He simply wilted away, especially in the final set, almost as if he wanted to just run away from the court.

I have said this in the past and will say it again: For all of the accolades he has got and deserved for the streak and the level of play he has played this year, Djokovic needs Grand Slam success for this year to be called a successful year, and the Australian victory is just not enough for it to be termed one.

Djokovic would be the first to admit that.

On pure game, Djokovic has it in him to beat the rest of the field and all three players at the top of their games. I don't care that the surface we are talking about here is grass. Even during the streak, and before his French Open loss, I said the main concern with Djokovic was his mental frailty, which he has displayed on numerous occasions during matches.

Djokovic is hard on himself and mentally goes down in no time during matches, and so far in this tournament it has already cost him two sets, one each against Marco Baghdatis and Bernard Tomic. And this was during moments when he was clearly in the ascendancy. You almost wait for that moment to happen and hope that it elapses soon, as it appears he is not able to prevent that from happening.

With all due respect to Tomic and my Aussie friends, I think Djokovic allowed him into the match with another of his "loss in mental fortitude" moments. Neither Tomic nor Baghdatis deserved a set and were made to look better than they were.

Djokovic should be wary of Tsonga, but really the only thing preventing him from reaching the final on Sunday is putting a "fullstop" to these annoying mental fluctuations during a match. As long as he serves big and returns just the way he usually does, I don't see Tsonga stopping Djokovic.

Looking ahead though, I would almost venture to say that Djokovic wants Nadal in the final. He probably fancies himself against Rafa more than Britain's favorite son these days, and Murray is ready to win a Grand Slam—he's probably never been more ready in his entire life.

Nadal is probably more wary of Djokovic now than any other player in the sport and it showed in his early French Open play last month. Had Novak been able to get past Federer in the French semis, he would have posed a far greater challenge to Nadal in the finals and would even have been able to beat him.

Having said that, Nadal—assuming no injuries—will find a way to get past Murray. Juan Martin del Potro gave Nadal all he could handle and more in the fourth round, but the greatness of Rafa lies not in his game, but in his ability to maneuver and lift himself from near-death situations and he has done it so many times.

I admire Murray for his game and the way he conducts himself under intense pressure. It really is one of greatest ironies of the sport that he hasn't won a slam yet. However, when push comes to shove, and when put to the most trying of tests, he has come up short and has not proved himself in that department.

At the end of the day, that is what wins you Grand Slams.

Coming back to Djokovic, for him to lose to Tsonga would mean two losses in a month, which when coming after a six-month period of invincibility, would be a body blow. For someone with his fickle mind, you would hope that he would bounce back from that. Let's hope that it does not come down to that. 

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