Tuesday, September 13, 2011

United States of Rafa 2011 - The Finals

(Positive spin... hmm... 1st is the worst, 2nd is the best?)

 Ooof.  I hate that Novak Djokovic!

No, but seriously. What can you say? Our Hero, Rafael Nadal tried his best. He tried to find solutions to weaken Djokovic throughout the match. Nothing worked. He tried moving back when Djok was painting the lines. Didn’t help. He tried moving in to crowd him and break down his volley. Didn’t help. Novak is just playing fearless tennis right now. Everything is working for him. Despite some momentary bouts of tiredness (which mostly come from not losing ever and having to play every tournament to its end) his game right now has no flaws. He is brimming with confidence and positive energy. There are no solutions to be found when facing that kind of opponent. Rafa fought hard, but Novak just couldn’t be beaten. It won’t always be that way, but this year that’s definitely the story for these two. Right now, Novak’s got his number.

The match itself was frustrating as a Rafa fan. He went up 2-0 and the start of the 1st set and then lost the following six games to lose the set 6-2. He was up 2-0 in the second set and went on to lose the set 6-4. They would play these exceedingly long games with multiple deuce points and Rafa had many chances to capitalize, but Novak always came up with something amazing to rip the game away from Rafa in the end.  The third set tiebreaker was amazing and the one real triumph of the match for Rafa. Each player was firing and returning retrieving these unbelievable shots. The spectators at Arthur Ashe were gasping, the people watching with me at Midtown Tennis Center were shouting (it was a pro-Nadal crowd). It seemed impossible that Nadal had to work so hard to win a point. He was winning them, Novak seemed to momentarily slow down just a hair and Nadal took the third set. I was excited for him to take the set, but it felt a little like their match at Wimby this year, where Rafa lost lopsided first and second sets and the got the third but faltered again in the fourth. I was on the subway coming home for most of the fourth set and when I got above ground and saw the score was 5-1 favoring Djokovic my heart sank. I know he tried his hardest. It just wasn’t in the cards this time. I felt bad for him, because I saw how hard he was playing, I see how hard he plays every match.  

The situation reminds me of a Buffy quote from the end of Season 3: As justice goes, it’s not unpoetic, don’t ya think?  I mean, I can apreciate the irony. For years Federer could beat anyone on the planet except Nadal, and right now Nadal can find a way to beat anyone… except Djokovic. How many of Nadal’s  Grand Slam Finals came at Fed’s expense? More then half of them – SIX! (4 French, 1 Wimby, 1 Aussie.) It’s a sucky situation, but Nadal has been on the better side of that equation a lot. Now he’s on the worse side. He’ll be back on the good side again. That’s what makes it a rivalry for the ages. :)

Novak’s win doesn’t diminish all the amazing success that Rafa has enjoyed for the past several years. Rafa may only have three titles so far for the year which is less than usual, but it’s still a great showing and he did compete in the championship match for six other titles, which means he is playing very well overall. And the year’s not over because it’s the longest effing season in sports, so there's still time for more success! Rafa will fight and win another day! Vamos!

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