As the third-round match between Novak Djokovic and Kevin Anderson began in sunny Indian Wells, Tennis Channel announcer Ashley Fisher reported that Djokovic's Achilles' heel is his second serve, a shot Anderson likes to attack. "The more you attack a second serve," said Fisher, "the more vulnerable it becomes."
Fisher's declaration looked like it might gain credence in Djokovic's third service game of the first set. At 2-all, Anderson held two break points and forced six deuces before Djokovic prevailed. In the very next game, Djokovic broke when Anderson double-faulted, which would happen again two games later, as the 6-foot-8 South African dropped the first set, 6-2.
Instead of Anderson preying on Djokovic's second serve, the lithe Serb (his calves look almost as wide as his waistline) won 60 percent of the points played off that shot, while Anderson won only a paltry 40 percent. Djokovic also won 46 percent of his return points in breaking Anderson three times (in six attempts), while the 29th-seed did not convert on any of his three break-point chances. Anderson likes to get his opponents on the run to their backhand side, but Djokovic is uncanny in hitting open-stance backhands in mid-sprint. When Anderson tried to pull Djokovic wide on his forehand side, the Serb ran down shots with ease, often returning them up the line. At 4-2, deuce, in the first set, Djokovic hit an angled cross-court forehand winner from well outside the doubles alley.
Djokovic broke again at 3-2 in the second set, and when Anderson fought back from 40-15 in the next game to force his final break point chance, the top seed hit back-to-back aces out wide to go up 5-2. When Djokovic won his ninth service game without a blemish, he closed out the match, 6-2, 6-3. The Serb made a tough test look easy, and isn't expected to be troubled in the fourth round, when he faces unseeded Pablo Andujar.
Dan Markowitz is writing a book about the 2012 season titled "Chasing The GOAT: Roger, Rafa & Nole"