Can anyone stop Nole?
After taking out Roger Federer in three sets yesterday in the desert, swiping up the No. 2 ranking in the process, Novak Djokovic beat World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s final: 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. This was his first finals victory over Rafa in six tries. Maybe that’s why this win has the same tide turning feel as when he beat Roger at last year’s US Open.
I find this a scintillating development, especially given the media mania (who, me?) for all things Fedal, not to mention the still-recent Swiss/Spanish stranglehold on major titles. Roger completes the career slam in 2009, then Rafa gets close to winning all four in twelve months, and now, well, we seem to be looking at a new – and very deserving – No. 1 player in the world. Maybe not in the rankings, but certainly in the reality of this season.
I find myself fondly remembering this Novak, ca. 2006, after he retired to Nadal in the French Open quarterfinals:
Yeah, he was cheeky, maybe bordering on delusional in this particular instance, but this hard kernel of reality-bending confidence has served the Serb well over the ups and downs, highs and lows of his career the last few years. Watching the clip now that Nole’s mature and mellowed, I get the sense that he’s still a little defiant, fighting for his proper recognition. Two Majors ain’t shabby, but that No. 1 ranking, well, to paraphrase Roger, “is all that matters.” At least to Novak, right now.
Whether the ranking means quite as much to Roger Federer anymore is up to debate. Or maybe the reality is that Roger doesn’t have much to say in the matter, anyway. But I still think Fed fans have to take heart in Roger’s own ornery version reality after taking his third straight loss to Nole yesterday: “I wasn’t far away at all today, because I really had him going, but I guess he escaped.” (I really don’t want to talk about Roger’s loss in the dubs – as someone commented yesterday: it’s just no fun watching him lose twice in one day. Props to “The Dog” and Malisse, of course.)
As for today’s loser, Rafa, nothing’s ever that discouraging when clay court season is near. And for tennis fans, it’s nothing but encouraging to see Juan Martin del Potro back in some big time quarterfinals.
Finally, cheers to Nole and Rafa for knowing what really matters: the guys made a video message of support to the Japanese people, and Nole’s been sure to keep the tragedy on everyone’s mind by keeping a message on his knee. (Unfortunately, I can’t find the video anymore – anyone got it?) But for now, you can visit Kei Nishikori’s Facebook page for more ways to help.
On the ladies’ side, Caroline Wozniacki continues to prove that she does indeed deserve the No. 1 by her name. She beat Marion Bartoli – who is enjoying her own well-timed resurgence into the top 10 – in a three-set womens’ final: 6-1, 2-6, 6-3.
Marion’s a fun character to have around. I love what the frazzled Frenchwoman said to Wozniacki during the trophy ceremony (via Reuters)
“Sorry I am a bit in tears but it is more tears of tiredness. Caroline, you make me cry today. I would like to congratulate you. You can be proud of yourself. I know your big goal is to get a grand slam and I am sure you will get it very soon.“
Awww. . .I’m starting to feel that way, too.
In ladies’ doubles, Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Meghann Shaughnessy.
So. . .it was a fascinating, perhaps season-shaping two weeks of tennis out in the desert this week. I know many of us enjoyed some matches live, including the superstar doubles combs. Please, share your thoughts before we do it all over again in Miami next week!