Sunday, July 3, 2011

He’s got his cake…and he can eat it too

Not only did Novak Djokovic take the number one ranking away from both Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal for the first time in eight year (I think), he also crowned his moment of glory by lifting tennis’ Holy Grail – the Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Single-Handed championship trophy.

In a performance that put an exclamation point on what is undoubtedly one of the greatest runs in the history of tennis (not just the open era), Nole not only ended the Roger and Rafa dominance in the rankings, but also of the grass courts, with a comprehensive three sets to one (6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3) victory over the man who was previously undefeated on the London lawns in 20 previous matches.

Consider this:

  1. Novak’s record since the amazing Davis Cup triumph last year is 50 wins to 1 loss
  2. In 2011 he has won two Grand Slams (Australian Open and Wimbledon) along with tournaments in Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami, Rome, Madrid and Belgrade
  3. The only tournament which he didn’t win this year was the French Open, where he exited at the semi final stage after losing a nail biter to Federer
  4. Nole has won tournaments on all surfaces – hard court, clay and grass – this year
  5. He has amazingly beaten Rafa in five finals this year
  6. Not only has he beaten Rafa in 2011 finals, but he has also defeated Roger and Andy Murray – the other members of the top four – in the same span
  7. Prior to his triumph last night, he had never won a grass court tournament!

In the first set both players stood toe to toe, like heavyweight prize fighters trading heavy blows from the back of the court. Unlike any other player on the circuit though, Nole not only matched Rafa’s heavy hitting, but dominated the rallies to the point that Rafa cracked first and Nole took a tight first set 6-4.

Djokovic’s return of serve, touch at the net and court movement rattled Nadal, so much so that Nole proceeded to dominate Rafa in the second set like no other player has to date. It was simply a lesson in tennis artistry, with Rafa’s usually faultless game totally decimated.

However Rafa Nadal is not Andy Murray. A mentally fragile Murray would have packed it in and the match would have been over in straight sets. The competitor that is Nadal would never allow such a whitewash, and he came out all guns blazing in the third set, breaking Nole early and racing away to take it out 6-1. Nole was very tight, and question marks about his history of failures at Grand Slam level started to arise. He’d beaten Nadal a number of times this year, but never in a Slam. Never over five sets.

The pendulum was slowly swinging back to the Spaniard, who was pacing the baseline like a bull ready to charge the matador.

However this is the new and improved Nole. Nole 2.0 – the upgraded version that simply seems to have overcome all of his weaknesses. In the fourth set he steadied himself and took the game back away from Nadal with an early break. Although Rafa broke back to keep the match alive and the crowd begging for a deciding fifth set, destiny was always in the Serb’s grasp. And he snatched at it with glee.

Falling to his knees after playing the final winning shot, Nole took a couple of blades of grass from the sacred lawn and popped them into his mouth. The true taste of success.

Congratulations Nole on a wonderful run…you’ve etched your name in the record books alongside the greats of past and present.

Now is the time to kick on and create a dynasty.

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