This Australian Open is an increasingly special tournament. The athletic condition assumes an increasingly fundamental role and injuries appear on the agenda: the quarantine faced by all tennis players has certainly conditioned their way of training and we see athletes get tired much more easily and find injuries too easily.
We saw an example of this in the match between the world number one Novak Djokovic and the American Taylor Fritz, engaged in a third round match. During this challenge, on the results of two sets to zero for Nole, he slipped on the writing Melbourne and this injury saw him one step away from retirement.
Stoically the number one in the world, however, held up and reached the fifth set where he took advantage of Fritz's too many mistakes and found victory. It was an anomalous match also because at a certain point in the match all the fans were forced to leave the stands due to the curfew with the athletes forced to go from a stadium full of fans to an empty stadium in a few minutes.
Unfortunately, in times of pandemic these anomalies are also on the agenda and all athletes are getting used to this. Not all three are present here in Australia but when it comes to tennis we cannot fail to mention the Big Three, tennis players who will remain in history and that is Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
Appearing on a recent talk show for Tennis Channel, famous coach Paul Annacone pointed out that the longer format in Slams makes it particularly difficult to get past players of the ilk of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
Annacone on the Big 3
"It takes a little bit more in a Major to get past them (Big 3)," Paul Annacone said. "They usually figure out ways to get through matches and I think for the men’s side when it is three out of five sets, I know really well talking to Roger Federer when I coached him and when I coached Pete Sampras, they both feel like three out of five sets, I’m gonna figure it out."
Over the past few years, Novak Djokovic has proven to be a tough nut to crack for Roger Federer - even in the Swiss' favored format. While the Serb may not have Federer's natural touch and instincts, he does have the ability to get under the 39-year-old's skin with his consistency and self-belief.
The Serb’s supreme defense is another major reason why he does well against Roger Federer in long matches. The Swiss likes to keep the rallies short but Djokovic always makes him play a few extra shots with his sublime retrieving, forcing Federer to go for the jugular - and consequently leak errors.
Elongating the rallies works particularly well against an aging Roger Federer, who no longer possesses the same endurance levels as he once did.