NOVAK Djokovic was at a difficult point in his career when he was confronted by Tomas Berdych at the semi- final stage of Wimbledon three years ago, but the man who has risen to No1 in the world and stayed there believes the defeat that Berdych inflicted that day provided the catalyst for his success.
Just two years after winning the 2008 Australian Open, people had begun questioning whether Djokovic’s best days were already behind him. How wrong they were. Belief, drive and the masterstroke of switching to a gluten-free diet have helped him soar to the top of the men’s game.
The Serbian, now 26, has won five grand slams since and is aiming to add another Wimbledon title to the one he secured in 2011.
Djokovic approaches today’s Court One quarter-final against Berdych as the firm favourite, but he is wary of the Czech’s threat, particularly given his memories of their last meeting.
“I had quite a turbulent five, six months of 2010,” Djokovic said. “The semi-finals of Wimbledon came at the right time for me because I felt that was like a springboard for me. From that moment on, everything started going uphill really. I didn’t play great in that match against Tomas, but credit to him because he got to the final that year, and he beat Roger [Federer] and myself, played a good match against Rafa [Nadal].
“So he knows how to play on grass. That’s the only time we played on this surface. I’m expecting a difficult match.
“It’s the quarter-finals of a grand slam. He’s an established top five, top ten player in the world. We’re going to go for the win, both of us.”
Berdych is bidding to reach a fourth grand slam semi-final by beating Djokovic, a player he overcame when they met at the Rome Masters in April.
The winner of their clash will face David Ferrer or Juan Martin del Potro in the semi-finals.
Del Potro, currently nursing a knee injury, has yet to take a set off the Spaniard in a grass-court match and is facing the fourth seed at the All England Club for the second successive year. “David is having a fantastic season at the moment,” the Argentinian eighth seed said. “I think he is number three in the world after this tournament. He deserves to be there. He made the quarters last year here. He beat me. Now we have the chance to go to the semis for the first time. But I think it’s going to be a really, really tough match for me. I hope the knee is better, then I will have to play my best tennis.”