Djokovic looks to avenge 2010 Berdych wake-up call
Novak Djokovic tackles Tomas Berdych for a place in the Wimbledon semi-finals Wednesday still feeling the raw pain of his defeat to the Czech at the All England Club three years ago
World number one Djokovic was beaten in straight sets in the semi-finals by Berdych in 2010, a defeat which raised serious doubts over whether or not the gifted but unpredictable Serb would ever build on his Australian Open breakthrough of 2008.
He lost that day but has since has gone on to win five more majors including the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open crowns in 2011.
"Yes, I had quite a turbulent five, six months of 2010 but the semi-finals of Wimbledon came in the right time for me because I felt that was like a springboard for me," said Djokovic.
"From that moment on everything started going uphill really."
Not that Djokovic, who boasts a 13-2 winning record against Berdych will be taking anything for granted.
"I hadn't played great at that match against Tomas, but credit to him because he played finals that year, and he beat Roger and myself, played a good match against Rafa in the final. So he knows how to play on grass. That's the only time we played on this surface. I'm expecting a difficult match."
Djokovic reached his 17th successive Grand Slam quarter-final with a 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) win over German veteran Tommy Haas.
But with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal both suffering shock early defeats, he is taking nothing for granted against Berdych.
"It's the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam. He's an established top 5, top 10 player in the world.
"But I feel good about myself in this moment. I think I actually play better tennis on grass than I played two years ago when I won this tournament. For now I'm feeling good. I'm No. 1 of the world. I have no reason to be concerned about my game."
Second seed Andy Murray insists he can cope with the burden of shouldering growing expectations that he will finally end the 77-year wait for a British man to win Wimbledon.
Murray was in commanding form once again as he swept into the quarter-finals with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 6-1 win over Russian 20th seed Mikhail Youzhny.
The world number two has yet to drop a set in his first four matches and looked more at ease than ever in the All England Club spotlight as he prepares for a last eight clash with Spanish left-hander Fernando Verdasco on Wednesday.
Losing to Federer in last year's Wimbledon final provoked a tearful response from Murray.
But, after winning the US Open and an Olympic gold at Wimbledon, the 26-year-old has appeared increasingly in command of his emotions both on and off court.
"There's always pressure coming into this event and it builds with each match," said Murray as he continues his bid to become his country's first men's champion at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.
"But I've dealt with it well over my career. I've played well at Wimbledon. It's been consistently my best slam over the course of my career."
Murray, playing in his sixth successive Grand Slam quarter-final, is the heavy favourite to reach a second successive final.
If he gets past Verdasco, against whom he has an 8-1 winning record, then he will face either Jerzy Janowicz or Lukasz Kubot with the two Polish Davis Cup teammates meeting in the other quarter-final in his side of the draw.
Janowicz, the 24th seed, defeated Austria's Jurgen Melzer, 3-6, 7-6 (7/1), 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 on the back of 16 aces and 34 winners as he reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final.
The 22-year-old was joined in the last eight just moments later by 31-year-old Kubot, the lowest-ranked player left at 130 in the world, who defeated France's 111th-ranked Adrian Mannarino, 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
The last Pole to reach the last-eight at Wimbledon was Wojtek Fibak in 1980.
"It's unbelievable what is going on right now. We have two players in the quarter-finals and a woman in the quarter-finals. I think this is by far the best that possibly could happen to Polish tennis," said Janowicz.
Spanish fourth seed David Ferrer reached the quarter-finals for the second successive year by firing 53 winners in his 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/3), 6-1, 6-1 win over Croatia's unseeded Ivan Dodig.
He goes on to tackle Argentine eighth seed Juan Martin del Potro who reached his first Wimbledon quarter-final with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 win over Andreas Seppi, the 23rd seeded Italian.