LONDON -- The way things unfolded for Novak Djokovic on Wednesday at the year-end championships, you half-expected Andy Roddick to be on the other side of the net. After all, whenever the Serb endures physical wobbles in a big match, Roddick seems to be close at hand.
A "one in a million" problem, as Djokovic put it, with his right contact lens meant the world No. 3 couldn't see out of one eye for most of his straight-sets loss. This time, Rafael Nadal was the opponent.
Roddick and Djokovic meet for the eighth time in Friday's evening session at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, with the American entering the sixth day still in contention despite being 0-2 in Group A. Ah, the joys of round robin. Djokovic won't want to be partially sighted as he tries to return Roddick's 140 mph rockets in the box.
Judging by past history, there could be plenty more drama.
Remember these three matches?
U.S. Open QF, 2008
By this time, Djokovic had developed a reputation for retiring and taking medical timeouts. Earlier in 2008, he quit in a must-win Davis Cup clash against Russia's Nikolay Davydenko and bailed versus Roger Federer at the Monte Carlo Masters.
Djokovic drew the ire of gritty Spaniard Tommy Robredo in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for taking a timeout and plastering winners all over the court when he looked to be in serious trouble.
Roddick fueled the fire ahead of their quarterfinal with one of the most famous quotes in recent tennis history. Commenting on Djokovic's ailments, he spewed, "A back and a hip? And a cramp? ... bird flu ... anthrax ... SARS ... common cough and cold. He's either quick to call a trainer or he's the most courageous guy of all time."
Djokovic, ticked, got his revenge by beating Roddick in four sets. A crowd favorite in New York a year earlier, thanks largely to those impersonations, Djokovic turned into public enemy No. 1 for criticizing Roddick -- in an on-court interview the crowd heard. Now that wasn't smart.
Australian Open QF, 2009
The grudge match.
The hype was understandably huge, especially since Djokovic was the defending champion in Melbourne.
Djokovic, coming off a late finish in the fourth round, won the first set in temperatures that topped 105 degrees. But the minute he began throwing in drop shots in the second, you knew he was toast. Djokovic remains wary of intense heat, surviving the first round of this year's U.S. Open only because countryman Viktor Troicki choked.
Trailing two sets to one against Roddick, Djokovic called for the trainer and had his pulse taken. When he fell behind 2-1 in the fourth set, it was up to the net to shake hands.
Roddick coped, and even prospered, in the sticky conditions. He lives in Texas and shed 15 pounds in the 2008 offseason as his partnership with Larry Stefanki began.
Djokovic has grown up since.
Dubai SF, 2008
Prior to the war of words, Roddick and Djokovic faced off in the semifinals of the Dubai Tennis Championships.
This was an important tournament for Roddick because he had just cut ties with Jimmy Connors and needed a boost in the wake of a third-round loss at the Australian Open.
Appearing unburdened, Roddick upset Nadal in the quarterfinals. Continuing with an aggressive approach from the baseline and chipping in 14 aces, Roddick subsequently prevailed over Djokovic 7-6 (5), 6-3. Roddick capped the week by downing Feliciano Lopez in the final.
Roddick has won four in a row against Djokovic, so he'll like his chances.