Tired Djokovic closes in on No 1 spot after surviving Tomic scare
Published 30/06/2011 | 05:00
Novak Djokovic's form this fortnight has been as enigmatic as his unblinking on-court demeanour, but it has not prevented him reaching the brink of yet another Grand Slam final.
The Serb progressed to his fifth consecutive Grand Slam semi-final yesterday with a four-set victory over Australian teenager Bernard Tomic, and is a firm favourite to go one step further when he meets Jo Wilfred-Tsonga tomorrow.
Tsonga's shock victory over Roger Federer would appear to have eased Djokovic's path to the final and the top of the world rankings -- he is one victory away from displacing Rafael Nadal, and Federer is the only man to have beaten Djokovic all year -- but on the evidence of this display, the Serb is a different player from the man who was unbeatable for five months.
Djokovic collected the Australian Open during a 43-match unbeaten run before he ran into a determined Federer in Paris. The exertions of this remarkable streak may have taken their toll.
He looked jaded as he struggled past Tomic and, by his own admission, is not moving with the same court-devouring brilliance that has set him apart from the competition this year.
Djokovic and Tomic regularly practise together, but the Serb looked anything but familiar with his opponent. Like all great players, however, he knows how to win without his best game, and that's what he did on Court No 1, surviving several scares as he struggled to deal with Tomic's patient, unpredictable game to prevail 6-2 3-6 6-3 7-5.
While Djokovic is aiming to end the Federer-Nadal duopoly at the pinnacle of the game, Tomic (18), was eyeing his own slice of history. Victory would have made him only the fifth teenager to reach a Wimbledon semi-final, joining Goran Ivanisevic, Boris Becker, John McEnroe and Pat Cash.
None of those champions had a game anything like Tomic's, however.
Lacking the power of older opponents, his game relies on baseline consistency, touch to find the angles and a willingness to take the pace off the ball.
It certainly unsettled Djokovic and for a while, with his yellow-and-gold clad 'Fanatics' cheering Tomic on, a surprise looked possible before Djokovic's experience told. (© Daily Telegraph, London)