Defending champion Novak Djokovic hadn’t dropped a set prior to his quarterfinal match in the Australian Open 2014. While it was a smooth run for the Serb so far in the tournament, Djokovic probably had been saving all the energy for his match against Stanislas Wawrinka. The Swiss didn’t let the Serb feel the absence of Rafael Nadal at Rod Laver Arena in 2013, as both these gentlemen met in the fourth round – in an epic match that lasted for just over five hours.
Even though Wawrinka had impressed in that match, by the end of it, one could see him struggling physically and of course with his temper. His backhand was magnificent, and fans wouldn’t have expected the match to go that far.
But we got to see a much improvised version of Wawrinka in the quarterfinal match at the Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday. The 28-year-old looked more focused, more aggressive, as a result of which he dominated proceedings on most occasions. The different approach of Wawrinka’s game this time was his plan to surprise Djokovic with his forehand. The Swiss would charge down to anything that was short from the right-side of the court, and send a powerful cross-court forehand, testing the elasticity of the World No. 2. It was a strategy that clearly won him several games. Another aspect of Wawrinka’s much improved game was the serve. The World No. 8 was accurate with his serve, which would explode after hitting the court, and even though Djokovic would manage to return it from impossible angles, Wawrinka would be waiting at the nets to smash another volley winner – something which he did throughout the match and Djoker had no answer to that.
Expectedly, Wawrinka’s backhand was the best part of his game. While Djokovic’s two-handed backhand has got him several winners in the past, it looked extremely mediocre against Wawrinka – who probably has the best backhand at the moment. The ease with which he returns the shot through his backhand, both down the line and cross court, is incredible. At the same time, he alters the speed of it, which makes the job of his opponents even tougher.
Djokovic is extremely good at predicting the point of return from his opponents. But in Tuesday’s match, Wawrinka dominated mentally as well, as first he would send Nole running to his left with a perfect cross court backhand, would continue to do so, keeping Djokovic on the left corner of the court, and then within the blink of an eye, hit a screamer down the line for a winner.
With the kind of competitive tennis being played these days, a five-setter doesn’t satisfy the fans unless and until it has lasted for over five hours. Such has been the benchmark set by the players. The Wawrinka – Djokovic match, even though didn’t last for more than five hours, it was a victory which the Swiss desperately needed. It would for sure make him believe that he too can edge past the best in the business.
Wawrinka has it in him to topple the best of the tennis players. His victory against Djokovic is not only the beginning of a new rivalry, but also the resurgence of one of the most elegant players of modern era. Tennis fraternity should be proud of having a player like Wawrinka, just like his coach and his family.