Wow. I’m still processing today’s Gentlemen’s Final, which Novak Djokovic won 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 over two-time champion Rafael Nadal. Not just the result, which is stunning, but what Nole’s dominant win means for the suddenly shifting landscape of the men’s game. For the first time in seven and half years someone other than Federer or Nadal is No 1 in the world. For the first time since 2002, someone other than Federer or Nadal has his name on the Wimbledon champions’ board. This all’s developed since Thursday.
Could anyone play better tennis than Nole did in the first two sets today? The way he “out Rafa-ed” Rafa with his defense, frustrating Nadal by making him hit not one, but often two or three crushing shots to even have a chance of winning a point was simply mind boggling. But then it’s been boggling most of us ever since this year’s Indian Wells final, when Novak suddenly started beating Rafa in finals. Now he’s done it five times in a row. But this last one was at Wimbledon which is Rafa’s turf (literally) and Nole’s worst surface. And after winning that breathtaking semi vs. Jo-Wilfriend Tsonga, I honestly thought Djokovic would be plenty satisfied with the No. 1 ranking.
A scary possibility – maybe he was.
People are already – rather humorously – comparing Rafa’s problems with Nole to Roger’s well-documented struggles against against the Spaniard. It’s an interesting question in terms of the Xes and Ohs: is Nole – with his return, serve and backhand at their best – just a bad match up for Rafa?
Another parallel to the Roger vs. Rafa discussion: Is Nole in Rafa’s head?
It certainly sounds like it, at least from Rafa’s post-match comments (via ESPN, in an article headlined “Nadal is no in Federer’s shoes):
“I played a little less aggressive,” Nadal admitted afterward. “The most important thing is play well the important moments. There is a few points in the match that can change the match, and I didn’t today. Probably the mental part is a little bit dangerous for me.
“I didn’t play well in these moments. That’s what happened in Indian Wells, that’s what happened in Miami, and that’s what happened [at Wimbledon]. I don’t want to count in Madrid and Rome because he played much better than me.
“To change that is probably be a little bit less nervous than these times, play more aggressive, and all the time be confident in myself. If not, I’m going to be here explaining the sixth (loss in a row).”
Forget about Nole’s awesome court coverage and penetrating returns, most remarkable is the idea that he’s got the mental advantage over Rafael Nadal.
But for now, let’s just enjoy the novelty of a new Wimbledon Champ and a new No. 1, because nothing’s ever certain in tennis and Nole enjoys no guarantees. We can all agree that he’s the best player of the moment, as Rafa’s described him recently, and this is his big Moment to savor.
“This is the most special day of my life. This was the first tournament I ever watched. I think I’m still sleeping, that I’m still in my dream.”
Mmm. . .grass: