. . .satisfaction. And neither can his fans. Roger was so close – proving for the second year in a row that he is the “second best” man on clay – winning a clay court Masters event and fighting relatively easily to earn a spot in the French Open final. Today’s match was closer than last year’s, in my opinion – Roger won a hard-fought set that had less to do with Rafa’s nerves than Roger’s attacking game, and he had so many breakpoint opportunities, it felt like a couple of them had to go his way, just out of pure probability. But Rafa is the most mentally tough (not to mention physically built) player on tour – showing titanium-strength nerves and holding on to his serve like a mama bear watches over her cubs. Roger had 17 (!!!) breakpoint opportunities today. Which makes the loss so much harder to take. But when you watch Rafa play like this, it’s a wonder that he ever loses on any surface. He’s unbelievable.
So where does that leave us Roger fans? In a similar state as this time last year – depressed, discouraged, and a little bit desperate – but wait, do you see that bright light at the end of the tunnel? Last year, Roger’s career record against Rafa was really dismal – meaning 1-6. He’d lost to him on hard courts and on clay multiple times with just a single early win over the Spainiard in Miami in ’05. Do you remember how spooked we all were? “Nadal’s in his head” we wailed – imagining Roger falling to Rafa at Wimbledon (come on, you thought about it), the US Open, the Masters and even looking forward to this year’s Australian. But our guy has really turned it around – winning three of these last five encounters (notably at Wimbledon and the Masters) one of which was in the final of a Masters clay court event. After today, Roger’s made it to a respectable 4-8, lifetime. Hello, that’s progress! So let’s keep this in mind, my fellow Fed Fans, and keep the faith, too. We have a great season of tennis ahead, and with such a fantastic (and real) rivalry heating up, our satisfaction’s guaranteed!