THE man who had every right to look flat was the man who did the flattening. Novak Djokovic should have been too tired, he should have been too weakened, but all he proved to be was too good.
After his punishing marathon on Monday morning, Djokovic would be presumed to be sore, fatigued and fighting himself to find the energy to get up and do it all again. Djokovic was pushed by Czech fifth seed Thomas Berdych, but not inordinately so, winning in four sets - 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 - quirkily, in precisely half the time of Sunday night/Monday morning (2 hours 31 mins to 5 hours 2 minutes).
''It was a great performance. I was happy to have a shorter match, just not to go over five hours like the last match,'' Djokovic said after the match.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC proved he is an iron man by backing up to beat Tomas Berdych at the Australian Open quarter-finals on Tuesday night. Photo: AFP
Making a statement that he was physically up for the contest and mindful also that Stan Wawrinka blind-sided him on Sunday night with a blistering first set that altered the tone and tempo of that match, Djokovic was aggressive from the first serve. This first set, like Sunday night, was decided 6-1 but this time it was in Djokovic's favour. Berdych is a player not readily dismissed. OK, so he has only beaten Djokovic once and the world No. 1 has bettered him 10 other times, but the Czech player has troubled the best players. He has beaten Federer twice - at Wimbledon in 2011, when he went on to make the final, and then again at the US Open last year.
But it has been noted that he is perhaps not as tough a challenge for Djokovic as he is for Federer, as the Serb has a more difficult defensive game to penetrate. Clearly the differences between the pair are slight, but Federer is more the shotmaker while Djokovic has the ability to get everything back, and hit plenty of winners.
Berdych went more aggressively at Djokovic in the second set. He caught Djokovic out, taking one early break of serve and he could have taken a second when he had two break points on serve, but failed to capitalise. His good work was almost undone when Djokovic had break points as Berdych was serving for the set, but the tall Czech was able to hold on. That meant the match would go at least into a fourth set and Berdych could hope that the longer the match wore on, the more significant the impact of Monday morning might become for Djokovic.
Maybe that was in the world No. 1's mind also, or maybe he just rose to a challenge, for he rollicked through the third set 6-1 and took early breaks in the fourth to put the match to bed.
The assumptions of the sapping effect of the earlier epic should also be put in context by this fact - only one player has won a five-hour match at the Australian Open and not gone on to win the tournament. That was Andy Roddick in 2003.
Djokovic next plays David Ferrer. ''He is definitely one of the fittest guys around, so I am expecting a great contest,'' Djokovic said.