Wow. I feel like Rafael Nadal and the spectators were as one during today’s Masters final in Monte Carlo – in awe of Novak Djokovic, who won his first title here over the eight-time champ: 6-2, 7-6 (1!). After so much speculation about Novak’s ankle, and so much talk about Rafa’s remarkable record at this tournament, the result of this final seemed like a foregone conclusion: Nadal wins. I even thought – why would Nole want to put himself in this position – to lose badly to Nadal in the lead up to Roland Garros, the one tournament Novak wants to win more than any other? Isn’t it better to duck and wait until you’re in tip top condition and perhaps Rafa’s a bit jaded? Pffft. Novak put an end to that silly train of thought, kicking off what’s sure to be a very intriguing next couple months on the terre battue.
“I did not know if I was going to be a part of the tournament this year.” Novak said afterwards. “I made a decision to play and, right now, it’s the best decision of my life.”
It says a lot about Rafa’s greatness that many people just expected him to win here the same way we expect the sun to rise each morning. It’s not like he gave us much reason to doubt him, besides maybe that one funky set he lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the quarters. I wonder if Rafa, in his heart of hearts, expected he could pull this off? Though he seemed in good enough spirits during the trophy ceremony, there was something a bit wistful in Rafa’s remark: “Congratulations Novak, what you’re doing is just amazing. Congratulations to you for winning my favorite tournament.”
A lot of Rafa’s favorite tournaments are coming up in the next couple months, including next week in Barcelona, where he’s on a 34 match winning streak. Novak’s taking a break until Madrid.
So, now what are we going to talk about?