Eleven years ago, two young bucks stunned the tennis aristocracy to set up an Australian Open final that no-one saw coming. With everyone anticipating a first Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal, up stepped Novak Djokovic and the unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to deliver a couple of knockout blows.
Djokovic took care of Federer in straight sets, while Tsonga did the same to Nadal, and so we headed into the 2008 Australian Open final knowing that either way there would be a first-time grand-slam champion.
Tsonga won the first set, but Djokovic battled back to win it four.
Now more than a decade on, the pair meet again for the second time in Melbourne since that final (the first rematch was a 2010 quarter-final that Tsonga won in five sets). Back to the here and now, and Djokovic goes into today’s match as the No. 1 seed and a 14-time major winner, while Tsonga has not reached another slam final and is ranked a lowly No. 177.
To give Tsonga his due, that ranking is deceptive after he missed most of last year through injury. He looked sharp in reaching the Brisbane semi-final two weeks ago, and hopefully will be in a position to challenge his illustrious opponent today.