At the end of 2006, there were six players between 1985-87 on the ATP ranking list, led by two-time Major champion Rafael Nadal. Novak Djokovic was one of them, climbing his way towards the elite group after winning two ATP titles and reaching the quarter-final at Roland Garros, preparing for an even stronger assault in 2007, opening the season with the title in Adelaide.
Bothered by a small shoulder injury, Novak was able to play at his best in Australia, hoping for more of the same at the Australian Open where he had short campaigns in the previous two years, making a notable start and reaching the second week.
In the first round, Djokovic lost two games against Nicolas Massu before beating Feliciano Lopez, delivering another fine triumph over Danai Udomchoke to set the clash against Roger Federer. World no. 1 scored two wins over Novak in 2006 and we saw the same outcome in Melbourne as well, toppling the youngster 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 in an hour and 50 minutes for the place in the quarters.
Delivering fury from his initial shot, Federer dropped 20 points in 15 service games and faced only two break chances, suffering one break in the second set but still doing enough to win it and seal the deal in straight sets.
The Swiss grabbed 45% of the return points, imposing his shots to fire 50 winners and having the edge over Djokovic in both the shortest and mid-range rallies that carried him over the top, stealing Novak's serve five times to advance into the next round and end Djokovic's streak of eight wins.
"I was trying to stay positive throughout the match, to focus on every point and try to play my best tennis. Still, I was frustrated at some points about my serve and easy shots that I missed; I couldn't believe I made some of those errors.
There was a lot of pressure and a feeling you have to deal with a lot of stuff, thinking about a lot of things. I felt I had the opportunity in the second set. I made some easy mistakes in games 11 and 12 that plagued my chances.
I probably rushed too much due to my inexperience, bringing Federer back into those games and losing the set. After that, it was a routine job for Roger who moved in front and kept the lead despite the chance I had in the seventh game."