For our first draw analysis, we will take a quick look at each quarter of the draw and rank them from toughest to easiest. We will also look at the potential pitfalls for the major seeds in the draw. Now, we will not determine the toughest quarter based solely on which quarter has more talented players in it than another. Instead we will look at the path that each top seed could have to go through to reach the semifinals and see which of those are harder than the others.
How to Beat Novak Djokovic:
Well, no one has figured out how to do it so far this year. So before we look at who in his quarter of the draw even has a chance, let's think about just what it would take to pull off this upset. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Djokovic got by far the toughest draw.
1. Protect your serve: It's harder on clay, but to even give himself a chance against Djokovic a player cannot trade breaks. Andy Murray tried that and nearly succeeded in Rome, but eventually Djokovic won out. Opponents will have to take the match one game at a time and start out by trying to not let Djokovic make inroads on the serve. Novak has been great at returning during this streak and dominates longer rallies, so this probably means mixing up the serves, going out wide a lot, and coming into net as soon as possible to shorten the points. Djokovic will make a lot of passing shots, but hopefully good approaches and tactical serves will get a lot of free points. Serving and vollying to mix it up every once in a while might also be effective and make Djokovic think twice about returning as deep as he has been so far.
2. Keep the points short: Djokovic is absolutely dominating baseline rallies. He is moving players around and using his great backhand to open up the court. But his forehand is even more lethal and he has been playing some impossible angles off of it. Opponents need to take any chances possible and just go for pure winners every possible moment. Trying like Soderling did against Federer last year or Del Potro against Federer in the 2009 US Open final seems to be a player's best chance against Djokovic this year. Hit big and go for broke. No one is beating Djokovic otherwise anyway so there really isn't much to lose. Guys may as well take it into their own hands if possible.
3. Don't get nervous: That's the number one rule for any player in a big match, but it always seems to be compunded against great players on a big stage. Andy Murray had a chance (though Djokovic was not at his absolute best for part of that match; he did hit quite a few more errors than usual during this streak) but couldn't keep the mental fortitude to close it out on his serve. Players once again need to take things one game or even one point at a time. Forget the score and forget the situation. Play each point as best as you can and maybe you can pull off something special.
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. As always, comments are welcome and requested.