Well, well, the “Battle for No. 2” didn’t disappoint, did it? The most interesting part of the match, to me, was watching Rafa’s mental game at work. When he lost his serve at the beginning of the match, I just knew that he’d find a way back into the first set. Djokovic impressed me by snatching the second, but even then, you could almost see Rafa’s defenses mounting (eyebrows up, eyebrows down, VAMOS!) He absolutely relishes a hard fought battle, even when he’s forced to come up from behind. Finally, I understand what those “No Fear” t-shirts were all about!
It was really fun for me today, because I’m usually too emotionally invested in Roger’s success to enjoy watching Rafa at his rough and tumble best. With so much at stake against Djokovic today, it gave me more of a reason to cheer on the Spaniard. I can see why Rafa fans are such die-hards – they’re emulating their idol.
It would be a shame if Rafa doesn’t make it to No. 1 someday. He said, himself, that Novak will be next after Roger, but I hope he’s wrong (or at least playing the modest underdog, as usual.) Of course Djoky will make it to the top one day, I’d just love to see Rafa get there first.
But what about the current, undisputed, number one tennis player in the world? Roger’s been spectacular this week, playing the kind of vintage, jaw-dropping tennis that his fans have been craving to see since the Australian Open. I don’t know much about how minute variations in court surfaces effect the players from tournament to tournament, but it is no secret that Roger loves the conditions in Hamburg. Do you know that Roger’s won here four times – making it his single most successful Masters Series tournament? I think this, and the three brutal hours Nadal spent on court today (versus Roger’s 80 minute walk in the park), will give him a slight advantage.
Oh, but I almost forgot the two most important factors going into tomorrow’s final:
1. It’s on clay
2. Rafa’s playing
I’m going to do my best to emulate Rafa’s mental toughness by not peeking at the results ahead of time.