Is it Velazquez or Delacroix? REUTERS/Benoit Tessier via Daylife
Finally, the final score: Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic for the Roland Garros title 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5. It was a miserable match, drawn out and drizzly, finished on a gloomy Monday with a double fault. It was also an awesome match, filled with wonders like a 44 stroke rally, a warrior-like comeback by Novak Djokovic and enough brutally brilliant shot making and scrambling to make us couch potatoes burn some empathetic calories.
It felt unfair, on some cosmic level, that a match so anticipated and historic was marred by so many uncontrollable interruptions. Both players mentioned this dynamic after the match:
Djokovic: “Unfortunately there was a rain delay yesterday when I felt good on the court.”
Nadal: “In my opinion, the conditions (before play was suspended) were much more favorable for Novak than for me.”
At least they could stand at the end of this one. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/GettyImages via Daylife
Who knows what would have happened had they played on yesterday in the mud, or if the match had been played in one go, under sunny skies. What matters is that Rafael Nadal found a way to battle through, to recapture the confidence of one who will not be denied. Rafa admitted to extreme nerves last night and into the morning, saying he didn’t feel ready to get back onto the court until three minutes prior to start time. But he played past the nerves and the doubts:
“There are very few opportunities, so you have to make the most. If I had lost a fourth (Major) final (to Djokovic), this would have been very difficult for me. So I felt it really was worth it giving my best, given everything I have achieved since the beginning of the season or even since the beginning of my career.
When you lose, it’s because you don’t deserve the title. So in my mind, this was the final I had to win. This is why there was a lot of emotion.”
As for Novak Djokovic, I realized that it was a testament to his talent that many of us thought he had a chance in this match against the greatest clay court player of all time. But it was his first Roland Garros final, and if the example of his opponent means anything – it took Rafa three times and “the greatest match in history” to beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon – this was a fine start for Novak Djokovic’s championship campaign at Roland Garros. I think he knows it, too, if you can judge from the gracious way Nole handled his defeat on Monday. He told the press:
“It’s beautiful, you know. These matches make you feel like all the work that you put into it is worth ‑‑ you know, you’re living for this moment to play finals of any Grand Slam, and sometimes you win; sometimes you lose.
I lost this time. But I believe that there are still many years to come, and hopefully I can come back stronger.”
Rafa, who today has surpassed Bjorn Borg’s record of six Roland Garros titles, was asked about his future this season, off the clay. He answered by pointing to the recent past:
“Don’t forget that I play the last five Grand Slam finals in a row. That’s not a victory, that’s not a title, but that’s fantastic results.”
Play resumes again this week, on a different surface with different conditions and climates. No, I’m not talking about another afternoon spent on Court Philippe Chatrier, but the verdant green grass where Nole, Rafa and Roger have all enjoyed fantastic results.