Novak Djokovic heads into his Wimbledon quarter-final with Tomas Berdych today having admitted it was defeat to the Czech at the All England Club three years ago that transformed his career.
This afternoon’s match on Court One was to be the 16th career meeting between the pair, but the first on grass since their meeting at the semi-final stage in 2010.
Back then, just two years after winning the Australian Open, there were questions over whether Djokovic’s best days were already behind him.
How he has answered those. Belief, drive and the masterstroke of switching to a gluten-free diet have helped him soar to the top of the men’s game.
The Serbian, now 26, has won five grand slams since and is aiming to add another Wimbledon title to the one he secured in 2011.
Djokovic approaches today’s Court One quarter-final against Berdych as the firm favourite, but he is wary of the Czech’s threat, particularly given his memories of their last meeting.
“I had quite a turbulent five, six months of 2010,” Djokovic said. “The semi-finals of Wimbledon came at the right time for me because I felt that was like a springboard for me.
“From that moment on everything started going uphill really.
“I didn’t play great in that match against Tomas, but credit to him because he got to the final that year, and he beat Roger [Federer] and myself, played a good match against Rafa [Nadal].
“So he knows how to play on grass. That’s the only time we played on this surface. I’m expecting a difficult match.
“It’s the quarter-finals of a grand slam. He’s an established top-five, top-10 player in the world. We’re going to go for the win, both of us.”
Heading into the contest Djokovic was bidding to reach his 13th consecutive grand slam semi-final, with Berdych hoping to replicate April’s victory against the Serbian at the Rome Masters.
The prize for the winner was a clash with David Ferrer or Juan Martin del Potro in the semi-finals.
For fourth seed Ferrer, victory could see him become only the second Spanish player, after Rafael Nadal, to complete a set of grand slam semi-final appearances and keep the possibility of an all-Spanish final alive.
Compatriot Fernando Verdasco was bidding to make the final four in the other half of the draw against home favourite Andy Murray.
The victor from that will face either Lukasz Kubot or Jerzy Janowicz, whose clash guaranteed Poland its first grand slam men’s singles semi-finalist.