Sorry guys, a little delayed on the reaction because I actually had to work on Monday. I’m probably the last person to finish up the Djokovic vs. Nadal US Open final after midnight, Western time. In case you work the graveyard shift in Honolulu, Djokovic won it 6-2, 6-4, 7-6, 6-1.
So. . . .wow! What a match! The sheer effort of it all was astounding. At one point I was imagining Roger Federer, sitting back in a luxury leather recliner and chuckling “Have at, boys.” In reality, Roger was probably snoozing in first class, on his way to Australia to play Davis Cup vs. Lleyton Hewitt. So I was his stand in.
Tennis, man, it’s one tough sport.
I thought at 2-0 in the second set – whoever wins this game, wins the f-ing match. And that last point in what turned out to be a 20 minute game, involving all kinds of scrambling and craziness, was like Nole’s exclamation point to that statement. I swear I didn’t peek at the results – I just knew he was going to win it after that.
Awe and exhaustion. That’s what I feel in my bones as I watch these two guys play. The 30+ shot rallies that aren’t decided until Nole’s crosscourt backhand or Rafa’s hooking forehand find that unreachable inch or two. There’s the straining and groaning, scampering and stretching and yes, the sexy sneers dripping from Rafa’s lips. Sometime after the fourth hour and Novak’s injury time out, I could only shake my head and throw up my hands – was this a tennis match or Ironman? It’s a fun, if jarring, contrast to what I normally admire – Roger’s ease and grace, his Swiss sprezzatura and inability to break a sweat.
Though Nole is making it look fairly easy, in his own gluten-free, chip-on-the-shoulder way. A funny post-match aside:
Q. We know you have changed your diet from the end of last year. I was wondering what you ate last night and what you ate this morning right before the match, and what are you going to do tonight?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’ll give you a simple answer: last night I didn’t have any gluten, and tonight I will have a bunch of gluten ‑ and alcohol.
Cheers! Novak deserves all the baguettes and beer he can eat. . .before taking on Argentina in Belgrade next weekend. Del Potro’s texting that quote to David Nalbandian as I type.
A few other observations:
I found it weird that Nadal voluntarily brought up the possibility of losing in his pre-match interview with the lovely Mary Joe Fernandez. I forget exactly what he said but it was basically like “Well, if I lose this time, I’ll try to improve for next time we meet.” Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone inside the top 100 admit something like that before stepping onto court. I don’t know what that means, exactly, except maybe Rafa can’t lie in English.
Roger and Rafa are two different surfaces for Djokovic. He’s mastered both, but right now Rafa’s his favorite.
I still think that Davis Cup could be the huge turning point in this rivalry. It’s one thing when Rafa’s fighting for just himself and Tio Toni. But if these guys face each other in the DC finals this year, the stakes will be so much higher, the atmosphere even more intense, that I think the result could dictate all of 2012.
Davis Cup or no, Rafa swears he’s going turn things around through hard work and a little bit of luck:
“I go back home knowing that I am on the way. I like to fight; I want to enjoy this battle against him. Six straight losses, for sure that’s painful. But I’m going to work every day until that changes… [Djokovic’s] season is probably impossible to repeat… His level for sure is fantastic. He’s doing very well mentally everything. So just accept that. Accept the challenge and work.”
Nike’s like “Wait, this isn’t supposed to happen!”(via ATP):
Rafael Nadal now surely knows what it’s like to walk a mile in Roger Federer’s shoes. After suffering his sixth consecutive loss this year to Novak Djokovic in the US Open title match, the former World No. 1 is at his wits end trying to find a path to victory through his nemesis, Novak Djokovic.
What struck me was how weary Rafa looked towards the end, despite a majorly impressive effort to win the third set. It made me think of (yes, I’m bringing him up yet again!) how Roger sometimes looks when he plays Rafa in the big matches. When you see it happening to a guy like Rafa, it becomes pretty apparent that it’s more of a mental than physical issue at work. See, Roger’s no wuss! He’s just like Rafa! (For some reason, this match is making me ooze Fedobile.)
So. . .this is an exciting time in tennis. The quality of the play and the opponents, the closeness of the rivalries – God, we’re spoiled. As for the main storyline, the Rafa vs. Nole rivalry, I’m still struggling to figure out who to cheer for in this new world order: Rafa, now the underdog, with all his charm, fight and humility? Or Nole, with his brash game and amazing drive to succeed.
I’m confused, but intrigued. And in awe. Exhausted. . .
Congrats, Novak! Winning three Majors in one year – it’s unbelievable that the current top three guys in the game have all achieved this.