Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have spent the last 18 months holding the grand slam fort for the big four of men’s tennis and now Novak Djokovic has come back to join the party.
After two years of physical and mental struggles, the 12-time grand slam champion appears fit and confident and has dropped only one set on his way to the last eight.
That is one more than Federer and Nadal, and it would still need an upset for there to be a different outcome than a repeat of the classic 2008 final between that pair.
But if anyone is to prevent that happening, Djokovic appears the man most likely.
Despite their dominance, the trio have not all reached the same slam semi-final since the French Open in 2012, and former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek believes Djokovic’s form is ominous for those looking to break through.
The Dutchman, the winner in 1996, said: “The bad news would be for the youngsters if Novak really regains everything. Roger, two more years, it would be amazing if he can make the Olympic Games, because that’s the only title lacking.
“But if Novak stays fit, he can dominate for another three or four years after that. I hope for guys like (Alexander) Zverev and (Nick) Kyrgios that at one stage these guys say, ‘You know what, we won enough slams already’, but they’re just playing amazing tennis, especially in the slams.”
Djokovic was especially happy with his fourth-round performance against Karen Khachanov, which followed a combative win against Kyle Edmund and a hostile British crowd.
The other member of the big four, Andy Murray, would love to be at the level Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are showing. His recovery from hip surgery is ongoing.
Djokovic, who has overcome an elbow problem, said: “I felt like in the last month and a half, the level of tennis has been very close to where I would like it to be, where I’m used to having it. So far the four matches have been really, really good for me. I haven’t spent too much time on the court. I feel physically, mentally ready, fit, positive.”
The next challenge for Djokovic is a quarter-final against Kei Nishikori, who he has beaten 12 times in a row since the Japanese star claimed his biggest victory in the semi-finals of the US Open in 2014.
This will be their first meeting on grass, and Nishikori said: “I think it’s going to be a new game for us. He’s always like a big war for me. Maybe I don’t have a good record with him, but I always enjoy playing him.”
Djokovic and Nishikori will play the first match on Centre Court on Wednesday, followed by arguably the pick of the quarter-finals between Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro, meaning Roger Federer must make a rare visit to Court One.
Del Potro was the only one of the quarter-finalists in action on Tuesday as he finished off a tough four-set victory over Gilles Simon. The powerful Argentinian has won five of his 15 matches against Nadal but lost to the world number one at two of the last three slams.
Del Potro said: “It’s a big chance for me to face Rafa. If I want to beat him, I have to come to the net very often and play hard with my forehands, with my backhands, and try to take all the chances.”
Federer faces eighth seed Kevin Anderson, who he has not dropped a set against in four previous meetings.
The South African is through to the last eight for the first time, and he said: “Playing somebody like Roger Federer is going to be a great experience. I feel like a lot of aspects of my game can give him a lot of trouble.”