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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Azarenka, Djokovic, Federer Tested on Day 8 of French Open

#1 in the Novak Djokovic was down two sets to Andreas Seppi of Italy. About that same time Roger Federer was down a set to lucky loser David Goffin. Earlier in the day Victoria Azarenka was sent packing by Dominika Cibulkova. A wild Day 8 was underway. Later in the evening both Tsonga-Wawrinka and Del Potro-Berdych would be suspended due to darkness.

Djokovic and Federer would survive the fourth round, but not without some anxious moments. Seppi was within two games of defeating Djokovic in the third set. Djokovic seemed uncomfortable with his footing at different times throughout the match. His uncertainity aided Seppi's excellent play. However, like a champion, Djokovic played with more conviction in his shots from the third set and on and hung in the match. Eventually, Seppi's play dropped just enough for Djokovic to pull away. It would not have happened though had Djokovic lost his focus and dropped his intensity.

As Federer did with Goffin, Djokovic was able to raise his play enough, even if it was not his "A" game to take control of the match. Azarenka, in contrast, seemed unable to grab control and lost momentum as soon as she got it at 6-5 in the second set. Unlike the men, Azarenka was not afforded the luxury of losing two sets and still having a chance to win. She was unable to hang around and finish off Cibulkova in the second.

The fine line of hanging around and making balls and being aggressive is difficult to find for all players. Federer and Djokovic have the ability to find that line more than others even when the pressure is on. Azarenka was excellent at finding the line at the Aussie Open as well as most of this year.

What is the lesson here? It does not make sense to go for lines when you are missing. You need to put more margin of error hitting inside the lines more and higher over the net. At the same time, if you become to predictable or just hit rally balls you will give your opponent the opportunity to control the match. You have to be smart when to pull the trigger and when to keep it in play.

What does the less than best play from Djokovic and Federer mean for their future in this slam? Nothing. All players go through matches where they struggle. Both players are resilient and will play well on Tuesday. Unfortunately for Azarenka she will not get the chance. No worries, she still one of the favorites for Wimbledon and the US Open.

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