Breaking it down……

All conquering world #1 Novak Djokovic has taken to RLA on a cool summer Melbourne afternoon. The Serbian sensation needs to appreciate the cool conditions on offer because his work today could get tricky. Looking at the match up in the 4th round most arm chair fans would expect a quick and clinical result. But I’m here to tell you that Gilles Simon has other ideas. This match could be a war of attrition and this is just the way smooth moving Frenchman will want it. It is no surprise that Simon is into the 4th round at Melbourne Park. A consistent performer week in and week out on the ATP Tour his world ranking peaked at #6 several years ago but he has been a mainstay in the Top 20 for the past eight. This stat alone underlies his top quality. Those numbers are not easy to replicate.

Simon has the unique ability to absorb extreme power from bigger and stronger opponents and he has made an incredibly healthy living from this skill set. Today he gets a shot at one of the most dominant athletes on the planet. Novak Djokovic has rolled into RLA as usual. It’s easy to understand why he would consider this court his own. 5 titles here down under and a red hot favourite to capture a sixth it’s no surprise his confidence is sky high. But Simon has plenty of tricks up his sleeve and he will need to use the lot of them to challenge the champ today.

Simon will be looking to keep the Serbian out there as long as possible with long grinding rallies that bust up Novak’s lungs. Simon has the ability to lull you to sleep with his slow consistent pace and he is such a smooth mover it can appear at times he could lift the intensity a notch or two. Don’t be alarmed though because this is Simon through and through and this is the way he frustrates opponents. On paper both players are extremely similar in the way they go about their craft. Both are lean athletes that are world class movers that chase balls down with wreck less abandon. Both with two handed backhands that are compact and technically unbreakable unless nerves or anxiety becomes an issue. The forehand wings are far from a weakness with the slight advantage to Djokovic based on his consistently higher net clearance due to his western grip and swing pattern. You don’t win 10 Grand Slams and dominate men’s tennis for two years if your forehand is vulnerable. It’s that simple. The serving department it is advantage Serbia again. Novak can pop it consistently and efficiently on average an extra 10–15km over five sets. This may not seem a big deal but at the highest level on the big stage this is huge.

When it is all said and done this afternoon on RLA the Serbian will have been made to work hard. Simon is more then capable of getting his teeth into the contest. He is a world class counter puncher. But the world #1 does everything better across the board. The movement, the efficiency, the belief, the serve, the toughness and the mental edge. It is indeed a matchup Djokovic does not need but it is one that he will appreciate moving forward when it’s all said and done.

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