If Nadal lost the French Open, popular opinion was that it would be to Federer/Murray/Djokovic in the final. Falling to the 23rd seed in the 4th round was simply not in the script. Now, everyone will have their explanation ranging from all the extra matches he has played since starting this incredible run about a year ago to the pink shirt (my favorite reason). We saw this happen with Federer and I saw it in a prior generation with Connors, Borg, and McEnroe. Why would Nadal fans expect anything different? Despite his extraordinary mental and physical condition, he is (as the agents from The Matrix would say) human.
Perhaps the best explanation is from Jason Statham from the flick Chaos, which I watched over the weekend. At the end of the movie, he tells the young detective who was his adversary that the detective learned a valuable lesson and it’s good he learned it while he is young.
“You don’t always win.”
I woke up on a beautiful Memorial Day morning and fired up the Plasma, itching to see Roldand Garros in high def. My eyes were shocked. In Roland Garros meets Reservoir Dogs, Nadal is Mr. Pink. I had to blink multiple times to make sure it was true. Although he went through some tough stretches, he did win in straight sets. I suppose when you’re the best clay court player of all time and No. 1 in the world, you can wear anything you want. In the unlikely event that Nadal loses along the way, I’m going to be the first to blame it on that freaking pink shirt!
Federer is still the only person to defeat Nadal in a clay-court final and did so for the second time today, winning in straight sets, 4 and 4. Nadal was apparently affected by the semifinal match against Djokovic, seeming unable to reach some balls he might normally have run down. The higher altitude did not help, causing the ball to move faster. Nadal has been on a tear since the Australian Open, though, and the one aspect of winning consistently in any sport is that you play more than the field.
Federer seems to have found his clay game and the service game has returned. Any win against Nadal (especially on clay) can only be a confidence-builder going into Roland Garros. Still, it seems to be Nadal’s tournament to lose and I kind of hope Madrid is a preview of the RG final.
As Nadal moves onward in Rome, having won back-to-back Master’s events on the clay circuit, I was reflecting on Nadal’s overall record on clay. He could retire today and still be counted as the greatest clay-court player of all time. Here is the record,
– Acapulco (2005)
– Barcelona (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008,2009)
– Bastad (2005)
– Costa do Sauipe (2005)
– Roland Garros (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)
– Hamburg (2008)
– Monte Carlo (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009)
– Rome (2005, 2006, 2007)
– Sopot (2004)
– Stuttgart (2005, 2007)
He is only 22 and barring injury will compete for several more Roland Garros titles. Four of his six current slams are at RG. Although his success extends beyond clay, he seems to be without equal on this surface.
Well, once again I proved why I’m not making a living forecasting the outcome of sporting events. Like most, I favored Nadal to win the Sony Ericcson, having proven his superior mental focus in windy environments at Indian Wells. Not to mention his general propensity for appearing invulnerable (except, I suppose for that huge topspin bouncing up into the much taller Del Potro’s strike zone). My top hopes for the final were (in order),
Nadal v. Federer
Federer v. Murray
Nadal v. Murray
Murray proved why his third title this year is well-deserved, coming from down a break in the second to win 2 and 5. I might be wrong, but am going out on a limb saying this is the first Brit to win the SE Open? With Roddick still unable to make a serious move, perhaps we Americans should just start rooting for Murray?
I was really impressed at his performance at the US Open last year and he looks to be on course for a fantastic 2009. Best of luck to him! Now that the tour is headed to Europe for the clay season, he’s going to need it on Nadal’s turf.
Just finished watching the Open. Thought Roger had a chance after coming back in the second, but then he seemed to relax. Nadal is too mentally and physically tough (anyone see the match against Verdaso). Back and forth, trading sets, and then I saw something very unusual. Roger’s edge in big matches has always been his ability to come up with a big serve to get out of trouble or get up in a game. His serve completely deserted him in the fifth. Nadal up a break and it was all over.
Nadal is to be congratulated not just for a big win but for elevating his game to complete at the highest level on all surfaces. Federer’s time is not necessarily over, but on the downslide while Nadal is reaching a peak. Federer will have to go back to the proverbial drawing board and find a way to elevate his play to solve the Nadal problem, a person who is clearly inside his head.
I was very pleased to see Federer win the Open and reach the semis or finals in every other major this year despite the physical challenges from earlier in the year. Somehow, I had it in the back of my mind that he might have a good shot of regaining the top ranking by year end or at least the Australian Open in 2009.
Well, this article set me straight 🙂 Looks like an uphill climb for No. 1 and possibly a solid battle just to maintain No. 2. It’s clearly Nadal’s year and I always give the best player his due. Still hoping though that the Fed Express gets back on top in 2009. Best of luck, Roger.