(Not the winner, but always a champ!)
So I'm not distraught and I'll tell you why. Nadal could've lost this match in the fourth. Easily. He was down to sets to one. He was struggling. He was serving down 3-4 at 0-40. One more point to Djokovic and it would be 5-3 for Novak to serve it out and that would've meant lights out and a very disappointing loss for Rafa. But then suddenly Rafa fought back. He won the next 5 points to hold his serve. He then fought to 6-6 and a tie break. Then he was down 5-3 in the tie break! Still he fought back again and won the 4th set! The 5th set was really incredible. Very impossible to predict who would take it. It became the longest match in the Aussie Open record books at 5 hours and 53 minutes. In the end, that Djokovic magic came back and got past Rafa at 7-5 in the fifth. It's sad, of course. I wanted Our Hero to win, my friends, but I'm not devastated because here he really competed like a champion.
(I think the dish is still a nice piece of hardware. Also don't you want both pairs of those rad shoes??)
I hope he takes away a lot of positive things from this tournament, even though it is admittedly a seventh straight Final loss to Novak. The past two years Rafa crashed out of the Aussie Open in the quarters and this year he made it back to the Finals. Even though he didn't win, I feel like he had to have reached a place in the 4th set where he mentally believed he could win and that he was not just going to hand Novak a 4-set victory. He would be aggressive and take it to him and fight like hell against whatever odds. Again, maybe it didn't quite work out at the very very end, but I liked what I was seeing from Rafa in those 4th and 5th sets in terms of fight, not to mention his mental and physical toughness shown in his quarterfinal and semifinal wins earlier this week. I feel good for Rafa heading into the rest of the season. I believe he will eventually get another win against Djokovic. He still holds a 4-game cushion in their lifetime head-to-head match up, so hopefully Novak can't go 11-0 through this year against him. Gotta give credit to Novak too. That guy just finds a way to win. When he should be over and done with. You can talk to Roger Federer about that too the last two times he faced Novak in the semis of the US Open. Novak should not have one those matches being double match point down. But he did. What can you say on the day besides, "Too good"?
Hopefully Rafa can now take a little bit of a rest on the tour before jumping into the next big tournament. There's about six weeks or so before the tour heads to Indian Wells and then Miami. And then the clay court season begins. As always I'll be wishing Rafa the best. VAMOS!
And of course the tournament wouldn't be complete if Rafa didn't flash us some skin. Thanks for reading! See you next tourney!