As play resumes after a full day’s suspension due to bad weather, a new factor has developed in the race to collect the men’s singles title.
A full day off means players in the bottom half will have to play four best-of-five-set matches in five days to reach the final, as opposed to those in the top half who only have to play three.
This is good news for whoever emerges from a top half consisting of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Janko Tipsarevic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who will each enjoy a full day off between each round, as opposed to those in the bottom half who will either have to play two days in a row twice, or three days in succession.
Defending Champ Rafael Nadal is the clear favorite to come through the bottom half, but after suffering a bout of leg cramps during his press conference on Sunday, his usually world-class fitness has been called into question. Conversely however, this additional day may well provide the rest that he needs to recover.
Back in 2009, Nadal won back-to-back five-setters to win the Australian Open. He first and only victory down under. At the time, this feat was deemed a physical chef d’oeuvre, highlighting his dominance over the mere mortals who pathetically seem to get tired after five hours of ripping forehands and sprinting side-to-side. But can he do it again? He’ll want to cruise quickly against Gilles Muller if he is to stand any chance heading into the weekend.
Perhaps the player most affected by the inclement weather is Andy Murray. The Scot’s game rarely allows for short decisive points, and he often spends a great deal of time on court. Equally, he is not built as well as Nadal, and has already faced a five-setter in the second round. Facing an inspired Donald Young, then potentially a player in John Isner who finds the majority of his sets going to tie-breaks, Murray too will hope to keep his time on court to a minimum.
Another player in the bottom half hoping to make a return to the final is 2003 Champ Andy Roddick . To do so, he’ll have to take out marathon man David Ferrer, defending Champ Rafael Nadal, and two-time finalist Andy Murray, all in the course of four days. Somehow, I don’t see this happening.
The simple fact is that as the matches get tougher, more intense and potentially longer, time will be running out for the eight men stuck in the bottom half to fully recover.
Federer cruised in quarter-finals in about ten minutes flat, and Novak Djokovic could theoretically be into the semi-finals before John Isner and Gilles Simon take the court for their fourth round match.
This has to be a massive advantage heading into the business end of the tournament.
Roger Federer, now in his thirties, is a step or two slower than he was five years ago, but this additional resting time could be a game changer if he should make the final.
However, if Djokovic was your favorite before yesterday, he has to be odds-on now.