Rafael Nadal became the second-strongest player in the world behind Roger Federer in 2005, standing as the best youngster in men's game and one of the most notable teenagers in the Open era. Alongside the Spaniard, there were other great players born in 1985-87, like Tomas Berdych, Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, with all of them hoping to reach the top as soon as possible and fight for the biggest titles.
The Serb became the leader of that pack in 2007, winning two ATP titles in the previous season to enter the top-20 and preparing for another mighty run from next January. At the beginning of 2007, Novak grabbed the third ATP crown in Adelaide that gave him confidence ahead of the Australian Open where he was yet to prove himself after early exits in 2005 and 2006.
The Belgrade native needed 81 minutes to dismiss Nicolas Massu in the first round, playing well against Feliciano Lopez too and beating Danai Udomchoke in four sets to book the place in the last 16 against world no. 1 Roger Federer.
The Swiss won the previous two meetings against the Serb in 2006 and Novak was ready to change that in Melbourne, hoping to bring his A-game and stick to his baseline game that would force the defending champion to work hard in every point.
"If I step on the court with the white flag, one has to wonder what I am doing there. I'm aware that Roger Federer is the best player in the world but I will not fall without giving everything. It's a dream for all of us to face Roger Federer on the center court but there's also a big chance you will lose that one.
Still, it's a nice thing and I will be motivated to go there and compete. I have nothing to lose against the best player in the world and the defending champion. I will give my best and try to win; that's all I can say.
I feel comfortable about my game now and will stick to it, not going for some risky changes. I will try not to rush things and stay calm and collected. Against Federer and Nadal, you usually want to have a lot of winners and shorten the points at the beginning; I have to avoid that."