Looking at possible obstacles for Novak Djokovic on his road to the Australian Open title
There is only one soul in the tennis world that can accomplish the gigantic task of winning a Golden slam – all four majors and Olympic gold – and that 'tennis machine' is Novak Djokovic. One year after registering one of the most phenomenal seasons in tennis history, Djokovic enters 2016 as hot favourite to win every single tournament he enters.
At the Australian Open, the expectations are even more intense. Maybe winning it without dropping a single set, or even without getting his service broken. Who knows what this inhuman tennis player can achieve.
Novak is already through to the quarterfinals and there seems to be no stopping him. His fourth round encounter with Gilles Simon gave birth to a lot of speculation about Novak’s form at the Australian Open this year as he committed 100 unforced errors in this match itself. However, as great champions always seem to do, Novak found a way to win in 5 sets.
Every tournament brings with it new challenges. Just because this guy is playing at a level unprecedented does not necessarily mean ATP is lacking in talent and competition. We take a look at his expected opponents at his most successful Grand slam, the Australian Open this year.
1. Kei Nishikori in quarterfinals
The first real challenge for the world number 1 will come in the form of Kei Nishikori. The Japanese number 1 can stun the greatest of players on his day. The 'ninja', as many call him – because of his looks and style of playing – is always a tough opponent and you can never count him out. Nishikori is in good form this year at the Aussie open as he defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets 6-4 6-2 6-4.
Nishikori pulled off one of the biggest surprises in 2014 U.S. Open as he defeated Novak Djokovic in their semi-final encounter. Since then, Novak has lost only one match at a Grand Slam (against Wawrinka in the French Open 2015).
But with Nishikori struggling with his form, having lost 4 of his last 10 matches, Novak should be a clear favourite to enter a blockbuster semi-final clash against – (Yes, you guessed it right, Roger Federer!)
2. Roger Federer in semi-finals
Two men have dominated the headlines in last 12 months and produced one the most competitive and impressive rivalry in the history of the game. With their Head to Head record hanging in the balance at 22-all, both men will want to play their A game against one another.
After losing two Wimbledon Championships and one U.S. open crown in recent years to Novak, Roger will be itching to finally get the win and get his fans the bragging rights, at least until the next match. How this match turns out, nobody can tell, not even these two themselves.
Roger Federer has been in fine form in his first four matches at Melbourne Park this year. He took out the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov or ‘baby Federer’ as he is sometimes referred to because of his similarities to the Swiss maestro’s style of play. The final scoreline was 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-4. Although the match was stretched to four sets, there never looked a possibility of Federer losing the match.
But judging solely on current form and not ignoring Novak's last year's records shouting in my face, I have to predict a win for Novak Djokovic.
3. Andy Murray in the final
Andy Murray has had a tough relationship with the Rod Laver arena. He has come multiple times to the finals only to stumble at the last block. This time as well, he will have to play his best tennis to even come close to beating the defending champion, Novak Djokovic.
Andy Murray has played some of his finest tennis at this venue over the years. This year too, the Scott eased his way into the quarter-finals as he took out the home-town favourite Bernard Tomic in straight sets, 6-4 6-4 7-6.
So can the Serbian register another monumental performance at the Australian Open and close his gap to the biggest names in the history with his Grand Slam tally? Plenty of questions pop in the mind but we will certainly have our answers in a fortnight's time.