Djokovic Enjoying the Ride

Number 3 seed Novak Djokovic moves one round closer to a showdown with Rafael Nadal at the 2007 U.S. Open. Photo: Tim Clary

Serbia's Novak Djokovic on Tuesday took another step forward in his mission to smash the Grand Slam stranglehold of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

The 20-year-old Serb defeated Juan Monaco of Argentina 7-5, 7-6 (7/2), 6-7 (6/8), 6-1.

That took him into a quarter-final against Spanish veteran Carlos Moya and if he wins that he faces a possible semi-final matchup against Nadal with Federer seeded to reach the final for the fourth straight year.

Djokovic underlinedIhis potential of becoming the third man in a rulingItriumverate of tennis when he beat both the world No.1 and No.2 en route to the Masters Series title in Montreal last month.

Now he feels he is ready to achieve the same feat on the biggest of stages.

"I can say I am ready," he said. "I had some amazing runs, especially on the hardcourts this year and in the biggest tournaments I have been playing my best tennis and had some impressive results.

"Now it's all understandably about Federer, Nadal because they're very dominant, the two best players in the world.

"Tennis needs that kind of rivalry, but on the other hand, people are not paying attention to the other players.

"I'm one of those players in that smaller group behind which is trying to break through and make this group of two a little bit bigger."

The task Djokovic has taken on is a huge one as between them Federer and Nadal have won the last 10 Grand Slam tournaments dating back to Marat Safin's Australian Open win in January 2005.

Djikovic was still in the junior ranks at that time, but he has truly emerged as a Grand Slam contender just this year.

He reached the semi-finals at both the French Open and Wimbledon, but on both occasions he went into the games against Nadal physically diminished and his game collapsed after going toe-to-toe in with the Spaniard in the first set.

Once again conditioning could be a factor as Djokovic needed four hours to see off Monaco following on the four hours, 44 minutes he took against Radek Stepanek in a classic second round encounter.

The Serb needed treatment on a back injury and at times looked winded against Monaco but he insisted that he was feeling fine.

"I had soreness in my back and I had to call a trainer and after that I felt a little pain in the stomach. I felt out of energy. So I got some pills and some vitamins. They really helped me out. So after that I felt pretty good."

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