Novak Djokovic: Reigning US Open Champion Is No Lock to Return to Finals

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 02:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts after winning his men's singles third round match against Julien Benneteau of France on Day Seven of the 2012 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 2, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Just over a week ago, I wrote that Novak Djokovic would meet Roger Federer in the US Open finals and beat the top-ranked player in the world, successfully defending his US Open crown.

That scenario might still play out, but it's far from a lock at this point.

Djokovic faces off with Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round of action, a man that he's beaten 10 of the 12 times that they've gone head-to-head, including their past nine meetings.

Wawrinka has lost his last 18 matches against players ranked in the top three, so while it's possible that Djokovic could be upset by Wawrinka, it's unlikely.

What is concerning, however, would be his quarterfinal opponent.

He'll either be facing Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro, who has beaten Djokovic twice in their last three meetings, or the resurgent American Andy Roddick, who is playing inspired tennis with his impending retirement coming after the next match he loses.

Djokovic and Roddick have faced off nine times, with Roddick holding a five-to-four advantage.

There would be something poetic about the two former US Open champions meeting one last time, with a Djokovic victory forever tying their head-to-head series at five apiece while sending Roddick off into the sunset.

But Roddick is playing like a man possessed, and right now it's fair to say that he's as dangerous an opponent as anyone Djokovic has or could face moving forward—including Roger Federer.

Djokovic can no longer dream of a meeting with Federer in the finals—for the path that lies ahead is lined with pitfalls and full of potholes.

And perhaps a stubborn American who isn't quite ready to call it a career.