As promised I am back with my final preview, but first I will take a look back at the Djokoray semi that was played yesterday. I predicted that Djokovic would win this in four sets and that it would be a tougher match than last year’s final. I just felt that the Murray/Lendl partnership was a good one and Murray looked confident and relaxed as the draw progressed. In the end Murray surpassed even my expectations as he came very close to winning the match. Djokovic won 6-3, 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-1, 7-5. The match started out looking like it was gonna be a poor quality match and another easy win for Djokovic, but it was anything but that. It was a high quality marathon in the end with loads of drama. It was really a titanic struggle that could have gone either way. In the end you have to give Djokovic a lot of credit for pulling this one out of the fire.
In a sense it is difficult to be a tennis writer these days, because it would be naive to assume that there is no doping going on in tennis. Djokovic could easily be doping, in which case it would be much harder to give him credit for battling it out. It is of course much easier to hang in there when you know the steroids will come to your rescue. You have an unfair advantage over your opponent. And as you well know I am not the kind of writer who can just pretend that everything if fine and dandy. Other of the prominent tennis journos won’t even dare bring the issue up, because it could tarnish their reputation. Reputation is important, but truth is even more important. If bad things are kept under wraps it will never change. It will only change once the light of truth shines upon it. And before people go nuts again – I am not accusing anyone of doping.
But being naive or ignorant about the situation is not the way to go either. I didn’t wana bring up the doping issue after the Fedal semi because I am emotionally involved and I didn’t wana make it look like I was looking for excuses. I completely accept that loss as if Nadal is not doping. But you can’t always turn a blind eye either. I will also probably be criticized now for bringing up the issue again, but I can’t just ignore all the suspicions either. I don’t think there would be so much talk about doping in tennis if there wasn’t any. No doubt there is a lot of sore losers out there who are looking for excuses when their favorite lose, but not all people are that biased. There are genuine signs of doping in tennis. The biggest cause of concern are the doping control regulations. If the regulations were thorough and strict there would be no cause for concern.
But unfortunately the doping controls make it possible for players to dope, and if there is an opening you can be 100% certain that some players would take advantage. Most of these things are concealed however because there is just too much at stake. It is a sad state of affairs but let me get on with my post. I just felt like I had to raise the issue again, because it is a reality. I will continue to assume that certain players are not doping because there is no proof, but I do have my suspicions. Anyway Djokovic looked pretty much down and out several times during this match. During the third set he showed serious signs of tiring. I remember a shot from Murray that came back and Djokovic walked to the ball. He didn’t run. He walked. We had seen similar scenes during the match he had with Ferrer, but this was worse.
Roger Rasheed, the ex coach of Monfils, said during the third set on twitter that Murray had won the physical battle and gave the impression that it was all over for Djokovic. I guess you couldn’t blame him for saying so, but I was more circumspect. I had seen this act from Djokovic before and he did not win three slams last year for no reason. Even when Murray won the third set I was not writing him off. First of all I wanted Djokovic to win, but also I just couldn’t count him out. He then came alive in the fourth set and basically blasted Murray off the court. It was quite a surprising transformation, but I wasn’t complaining. I just wanted him to face Nadal in the final. As well as Murray was playing, I would rather have Djokovic in the final who has proven to be Nadal’s nemesis. Nadal has owned Murray at slam level as well and I didn’t wana leave Nadal’s fate up to him.
In the fifth set Djokovic was up a break at 5-2. It looked like it was all over but Murray broke back, and at 5-5 he failed to take advantage of several break points. It really was an incredibly dramatic match. But in the end Djokovic just found that something extra which saw him have one of the best tennis seasons in history in 2011. He is number one for a reason. Doping or no doping, I like the fact that he finds a way to win. There is something very clutch about him these days. I call it the X factor. He has that something extra which is needed to be the best. It’s that something that makes you ask ‘How did he manage to win this match?’ Murray looked in control for large parts of this match, but Djokovic just managed to snatch it away from him. Another good example of this is when Roger was in control against Djokovic at the US Open last year.
Djokovic was down and out but he came up with that unreal return out of nowhere which stunned Roger. I don’t think this is something that doping can help you do anyway. It is a certain belief in yourself that comes from winning a lot of matches on the big stage. Doping can help you win a lot of matches, but I don’t see how it could help you hit a return like that in a moment like that. It requires unreal confidence in your own abilities. Whatever the case may be, Djokovic once again made the great escape. Therefor I cannot possibly say that Murray choked like he usually does. I was very impressed with Murray in fact. He has already undergone a transformation under Lendl in my opinion. His boy language was more professional than usual and he was playing attacking tennis for once. He lost by a hair breadth to the very best and he should be proud about that.
Ok so it wasn’t a grand slam final, but I still thinks this bodes very well for Murray. I think he will win a slam in the near future. He is right there with the best and this match will give him confidence. This match wasn’t like previous big losses where it crushed him mentally. He played with balls for a change and I think this will only make him play with more belief. There are losses where you let yourself down, and then there are losses where you give everything and the other guy was just too good. The prior dents your confidence while the latter actually builds your confidence. Yes, it is possible to gain confidence from a loss. It looks like Murray is right up there with the top three now and that will make things even more interesting at the top. Now let me get to my preview of the final.
Like I said, I was rooting for Djokovic all the way to beat Murray because he has proven his ownership over Nadal. The numbers don’t lie. Six final spankings including two clay events and two slams is an awful lot of ownage. No wonder Nadal appears nervous about the final. He had the following to say about Djokovic’s performance against Murray:
“It’s funny, no? I saw the match yesterday on the TV show on the channel seven when he was in the fifth set moving fantastically well, and they show images from two hours fifty (minutes) before and seems like he was destroyed,” the 10-times grand slam champion said on Saturday.
“Two hours fifty later he was in perfect condition. So it is difficult to imagine that he has these problems. I don’t know.”
Nadal is implying that it was gamesmanship from Djokovic’s side. This strikes me as both ironic and nervous talk from Nadal. Ironic because Nadal uses the same kind of gamesmanship. How often have Nadal been down in a match, called an MTO, and then ran around like superman afterwards? Nadal is the finest exponent of these kind of mind games, so coming from him this is pretty rich. He is the last person that should be criticizing Djokovic here. It just shows you that he is not quite as humble as he appears. It also appears nervous to me because it looks like he is trying to start a war of words. If someone owns you this is not a wise thing to do. It is better to keep quiet and let your racquet do the talking. But maybe Nadal really believes in his chances and he figured a little mind games won’t hurt.
But this is not the only strange thing that Nadal said. He also said the following about Murray:
Yesterday he lost another very good opportunity, in my opinion. Because winning two sets to one, winning the third set, probably losing a lot chances, and then winning with 7-6 — to win a tournament like this and to play against player like Djokovic, you cannot start the fourth set like this.
It’s the moment to play with more intensity than ever, not start with 3-Love down and two breaks in five minutes. That way you lose the match. You want to win the tournament, you cannot start — you can lose — the other can beat you, but you cannot lose in the beginning.
I find this a little strange because this is pretty much what happened to Nadal in the US Open against Djokovic last year. He won the third set and then went 3-0 down in the fourth set. Sometimes Djokovic just plays too well and all of a sudden you find yourself 3-0 down. I don’t think there was much Murray could do in that situation, and neither could Nadal at the US Open. I don’t think Nadal has the answer here himself, so telling Murray how to do it doesn’t make much sense. He has clearly not find the solution to Djokovic himself. I don’t think he will on Sunday either. I don’t care that Djokovic played a marathon semi. I think people make way too much of this issue. Many past slam champions played marathon five set matches in the semis and went on to win the title. And this has happened at the US Open of all places where there is no day of rest between the semis and final.
Djokovic has a day of rest here and he will be physically fine. He was physically fine in the fourth and fifth sets against Murray anyway. This is also the most unlikely surface for Nadal to beat Djokovic on. The rebound ace courts of Melbourne suits Djokovic’s game like a glove. It is not bad for Nadal’s game either, but Nadal has only won in Melbourne once. Other than that he has never even made the semis. A lot of people feel like Nadal could upset Djokovic here. But why? I don’t see any reason to believe Nadal will turn the ownership of Djokovic over him around here. Of course that doesn’t mean that Nadal can’t win, but I find it unlikely to be the case. Djokovic 2.0 is just a very difficult match up for Nadal, just like Nadal is a very bad match up for Roger. This is why it is by far a better scenario that Roger is in Nadal’s half of the draw.
If Roger played Djokovic in the semi-final and won, he would first of all have saved Nadal from his nemesis like he did at the French Open. If he then played Nadal he would have lost with 99% certainty and given Nadal his 11th slam title. Now it doesn’t matter much that he lost to Nadal, because Nadal still has to deal with his nemesis. I have already said that I have made peace with the fact that Nadal owns Roger. It is what it is. Now I can sit back and watch how Nadal deals with his owns demons. The last two slam finals have really given me immense pleasure. I know you prefer that Roger is the one beating Nadal, but it is not happening at this point. That doesn’t mean someone else can’t beat him. It really has been a lot easier dealing with Roger’s defeats to Nadal since Djokovic has started owning Nadal.
It makes all the difference. It makes the whole head-to-head issue a lot less relevant. Not that it ever had much relevance to me, but at least the critics and Nadalfans have to shut their mouths because it is happening to another all time great. Roger never solved Nadal, and if Nadal can never solve Djokovic he won’t be able to equal or beat Roger’s slam record. He would also be remembered for being owned by Djokovic 2.0. In the end the GOAT debate comes down to Roger and Nadal for me. If anyone can beat Roger’s slam record it is Nadal, and it would be nice if Roger can end up being the GOAT of the two. A lot will depend on Djokovic and what happens tomorrow. If he beats Nadal then the ownership increases. On the other hand if Nadal wins tomorrow he will probably go on to win the French Open again and could end up with another 3-slam year.
So it’s important that Djokovic stops him dead in his tracks. Djokovic just has to play his game and I can’t see what Nadal can do to beat him. It is really beautiful to watch. Djokovic’s backhand may be the best ever and it renders Nadal’s moonball forehand impotent. Rather, Djokovic uses his own forehand to break the Nadal backhand down. Nadal can’t end the points either because Djokovic’s defense is so good. He gives Nadal his own medicine which is the most pleasing part of it all. Nadal gets to feel what’s its like for Roger to play against himself. He can hit his very best shot and it comes back with interest. It really is a demoralizing thing. Other than that Djokovic probably has the best return in the game, which makes it hard for Nadal to win free points off his serve and often puts Djokovic on the offense.
Nadal really has nowhere to go, and he gets to feel exactly what it feels like for Roger playing against himself. This is what makes it so satisfying for me. Lets hope the same thing happens tomorrow.
Djokovic Incident: There was a moment during the Djokoray semi where Djokovic ate something under his towel. I find it funny because it’ so pointless. I mean he surely isn’t gonna take anything illegal onto the court. But why do it in the first place?
Ps. I opened a thread again in the forum if you want to post comments during the match. The chat thread for the Fedal match was busy and there were more people than I expected. I wish I started it earlier because it’s a lot of fun. You can access the thread here. Lets enjoy this final and make sure Djokovic gets the job done!