2013 Australian Open: Novak Djokovic vs Tomas Berdych Preview


The 2013 Australian Open has winnowed down to eight quarter-finalists in the men's draw and Day 9 action from Melbourne Park will feature four of those survivors. The 'main event' of the day is the match between top seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia and fifth seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic. The two players are scheduled for a 7:30pm start from Melbourne Park tonight with a spot in the Australian Open semifinals at stake.

Berdych enters the match with just a 1-11 heads up record against Djokovic and from the onset, that has to be concerning for the Czech player's backers. However there appears to be more cause for optimism heading into this match than there has been on many other occasions.

Djokovic had ample trouble with Stanislas Wawrinka a couple days ago in the fourth round. The five-time Grand Slam champion persevered but only after five hours of grueling tennis and only by the minimum two games in the deciding set. That near-loss to a player outside of the Top Ten should make some people raise their eyebrows and ask a few questions.

Firstly, was the near-loss due to Djokovic playing below his standard? Or did Wawrinka, perhaps on his way back to the Top Ten, play better than what we've come to expect from the Swiss No. 2? Regardless of the answers to those two questions you have to ask this: what impact will a five-hour match have on the World No. 1's chances of continued success?

In regard to the first two questions, I think it is clear that Djokovic was not playing his best, at least not in the first set. However I think it is also clear that Wawrinka is playing better now compared to how he played in 2012 and most of 2011. In regard to the last question, a five-hour five setter in Melbourne - even one that you win - can only hurt your chances of continued success in a Grand Slam draw.

We've seen Janko Tipsarevic tap out of the 2013 Australian Open due to the effects of fatigue following long matches. He withdrew in his fourth round match against Nicolas Almagro, giving the Spaniard an easy win that put him into his first Melbourne Park quarterfinal. We also saw a fatigued Gilles Simon lose at the Aussie due in part to fatigue: the Frenchman trudged around sluggishly against Andy Murray in the fourth round, giving the Scot a match-win with very little work.

Tipsy and Simon aren't Djokovic but then again, the Serb is now playing a more accomplished player in Berdych - one that has won his quarter in Grand Slams three times. For all of Djokovic's troubles in the fourth round, Berdych had few. He faced an in-form service giant in Kevin Anderson and raced out to a two-sets-to-love lead in no time before facing a more challenging third set. Berdych also dispatched of Jurgen Melzer in the third round in straight sets with just seven games lost and the Czech player is 12-0 in sets played so far at the 2013 Australian Open.

He has to be considered a threat to eliminate Djokovic and those that scoff at that possibility have to acknowledge three historical results: (1) Berdych's victory over Roger Federer at the 2012 US Open, (2) the Czech's win over Fed at Wimbledon 2010 and (3) the Czech's win over Djokovic in a bigger match than the one that will be played on Tuesday - the 2010 Wimbledon semifinals.

Betting odds favor Djokovic (ie. bet365) as it is hard to ignore the World No. 1's history of success in Melbourne. We can't forget last year when he played a long match against Andy Murray in the semifinals and then turned around and beat Rafael Nadal in the final in another long match. But heading into the match the Berdych vs. Djokovic quarterfinal appears to be a more open match than many of their previous meetings and fans of the Czech may ground some optimism in that fact.