Sunday, June 9, 2013

Rafa at Roland Garros: Quest For Crazy Eights - Semifinals

(Hells, YES! Rafa is LIVING IT!)

OMG, you guys. O-M-F-G. Our guy came through. There were so many times I thought it wasn't going to happen. Oh, the despair I felt! There were also plenty of times when I thought he was ready to win the match before it actually happened. This match really did feel like the companion match to the epic 5-set Australian Open final Rafa lost to Djokovic last year. True, this was just a semifinal, but in terms of drama and battle it felt very similar. In Australia, it seemed like Rafa played at the top level of his game, but still (improbably) with a break lead in the 5th set, he lost. Novak found a way to fight his way out of it. Similarly here, with Novak playing extremely well at the end of the 4th and up a break in the 5th, Rafa found the fight necessary to turn back the tide and win 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 9-7. I couldn't be happier. Thank goodness.

Much like when Rafa was up a break in the 5th in Australia, I allowed myself to celebrate too early on Friday. When Rafa was up a break in the 4th and serving for the match, I believed victory was undeniably his. But I should've known Novak would fight back. He always does. When he got downa break in the fifth I thought that was the end of the story. I couldn't believe Novak would take his foot off Nadal's throat. But then Rafa did something amazing. He threw absolutely everything he had at Novak on Novak's serving games. He went on the offensive and attacked and at 3-4 down he was able to level the match. From then on, Rafa got to play from the lead again, and one unfocused service game from Novak at 7-8 gave Rafa the win. I was so proud of his effort to fight back, exorcising his Nole demons by taking it right to him at the end. It was fantastic. The days that Rafa beats Novak I always feel great all day long. Nothing can go wrong! My apartment building could've burned down that day and still I would've been like "Well, yeah, but Rafa beat Novak so the scales are still tipping to toward the positive!"

Now Rafa heads to the Final to meet fellow countryman David Ferrer. Ferru has played a truly fantastic tournament so far - he's shut down all of his opponents without losing a set. He completely dismantle Tsonga in the other semifinal to reach the first Grand Slam final of his career. He's made more Grand Slam appearances (42!!!) than any other player in the Open Era before making it to his first major final. He'd previously been 0-5 in major semi-finals and is the third oldest first-time Grand Slam finalist. Talk about not giving up on your dreams! His downfall has always been getting passed the Big Four, but because Murray got injured and Federer lost earlier, he didn't have to face any of them before the Final.

Ferrer is playing great tennis, but he's 4-19 against Nadal. On clay he is 1-16 and that one win he has against Rafa was all the way back in 2004.So if history is an indicator Rafa should take this one easily. But you never know. I want Rafa to pick up his 12th Major trophy, but a part of me also can't help but wonder what the scene would be like if Ferrer pulled off this victory. Seeing him in that moment would be glorious and surreal. Would he retire on the spot? I don't think any moment in his tennis career could be better than that.

But most likely it won't happen! Nadal knows what to do to beat Ferrer. He's hungry for it and wants the title. He's in great physical and mental shape. He's 58-1 lifetime at Roland Garros. He's just made his 9th final in as many tournaments. We're looking for it to be his 7th title of the year and his 8th at the French Open overall. VAMOS RAFA!!!!!

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