Thursday, 30 June 2011

Novak Djokovic - Not All About The Top 4

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga proves it's not all about the awesome foursome, says Novak Djokovic

James Olley
30 Jun 2011 

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The men's semi-final draw almost feels misshapen in the absence of Roger Federer but Novak Djokovic is acutely aware that the top four players walk a more precarious path than most believe.

Djokovic benefits most immediately from Federer's absence, given that he faces the Swiss's conqueror, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, tomorrow in a match he will be expected to win and progress to his firstWimbledon final. A position of favouritism is something to which Djokovic, the No2 seed, has become accustomed to while cementing his place among the elite quartet in the game.

Something is supposedly amiss should Djokovic, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray not all feature in the latter stages of a Grand Slam, as the level of tennis they produce continues to prompt debate as to whether this current crop is the greatest generation of them all.

The awesome foursome comprised the semi-final line up at the French Open last month but that was the only occasion in the last five years when the top four seeds have lived up to their ranking.

Federer's exit sent shockwaves across SW19 but Djokovic reflected on the remarkable consistency required to dominate a sport perhaps at its strongest. "That result shows how fine the margins are at the top of the game," he said. "It's not only about the top four players.

"There are other players who are able to play great tennis and Tsonga proved it yesterday. It is all very close at this level, especially in the second week of a Grand Slam."

Djokovic could have been forgiven for losing sight of such sentiment, given his astonishing record this year. The 24-year-old Serbian has won 46 matches and lost just once - to Federer in the semi-finals at Roland Garros - and is one victory away from being confirmed as No1 in the world for the first time in his career.

But despite his remarkable statistics, Djokovic has not been entirely comfortable during these championships, even in securing a four-set victory over Australian Bernard Tomic yesterday. "I need to work on my game," he said. "That's what matters the most, regardless of who is across the net. Tsonga came back from two sets down against Roger and it was amazing. He played well at Queen's and is beating top players. So he is very dangerous.

"Grass is not my favourite surface but I can play well on it and do better."

Djokovic will need to given Tsonga's mood, which will be boosted by a head-to-head record that comes down 5-2 in the Frenchman's favour.Tsonga, who lost the Queen's final against Murray, believes yesterday's result is proof his mental strength has improved in big matches.

"It is difficult to play Federer because you don't know exactly what he's thinking," said Tsonga. "You don't know if he's scared or not.

"I felt really strong because I never panicked. I have improved a lot mentally. I try to stay focused, just breathe and stay quiet. I feel good with this. I like these big moments, so I hope I will have some more."

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