I stole that headline from CBS Sports, because I think it perfectly captures what happened last night in the Australian Open Final.
You could add “outplays,” to the headline, too, if you want, but I think that might be beside the point (speaking of points, they won almost the same amount – Roger was in the 170s and Rafa maybe hit 180 at the end.) This match wasn’t about Roger being blown off the court by a brilliant shot maker (although Rafa most certainly is), it was about Rafael Nadal’s unyielding will to win and his undying belief in himself and his game – no matter who he plays or how he feels that day.
Rafa’s ability to bring his mental toughness to life on the court is the single most amazing thing about his game – it’s a physical thing, like his down-the-line forehand and wicked cross court backhand. And like his grunt – it’s part of almost every shot he plays.
It’s also the most lethal weapon in the sport of tennis – just look at how it rips Roger Federer to shreds.
Oh, poor, poor Roger. Boy, was the conclusion brutal. I did try to sleep after the first set but gave up and got up in time to catch the final one. Kind of wish I had just tossed and turned a little longer – seeing Roger break down without the DVR’s fast forward button as a buffer was like shock therapy to the Fedophile soul. And it wasn’t just his emotional breakdown that hurt (I’ll get to that later) but witnessing the breakdown of the basic building blocks of his game. His serve deserted him (I bet Roger exceeded hit more double faults and second serves in this match alone than in the rest of the tournament), his refined forehand went haywire, and – most terrifying – his Champion-grade soul leaked out of him like all those tears that later poured down his cheeks.
We’ve never seen Roger so vulnerable. It was hard for everyone (did you catch the look of horror on Mirka’s face?) and Rafa only deserves more props for how sensitively he handled the moment (a moment that I’d argue Roger almost stole from him with all his blubbering.) But before I get too stern with Fed, I do want to acknowledge that no one in the world has ever been in the position he was in last night – playing to tie Pete Sampras’s record. No one’s even come close (although Nadal is definitely on track.) So it’s pretty hard to judge the guy. At the very least, we know how much he cares.
I do have faith that he’ll eventually pull himself together and live to fight another day. But he’ll need to make some big changes mentally if he ever hopes to beat Nadal in a Major. I suggest that he start with a triple dose of treatment: a coach, a psychiatrist and his Mommy.
Come on Roger, let’s see some tears of victory!!!