How sweet was that?! That was almost as satisfying as any of Roger’s wins. I say that because this result benefits Roger in many ways. First of all it means Nadal does not close in more on Roger’s slam count. It also confirms what I’ve been saying about Djokovic being in Nadal’s head. Quite a few people on my blog have said that Djokovic is not the favorite against Nadal in a slam final because he has never beaten Nadal over five sets. It’s a fair point, but after this match it is now once and for always established that Djokovic is in Nadal’s head. I wasn’t sure if the grass would make a difference in the match up, but Djokovic came out picking up where he left off in his last four matches with Nadal. He looked a bit nervous in the start, which was understandable for his first Wimbledon final. He soon found his range though and took his first set point at 5-4 and 40-30 on Nadal’s serve.
He was doing the same thing to Nadal which he did to him in their last 4 matches. The trend was continuing. In the second set Djokovic’s incredibly high level continued as he hit Nadal off the court. I mean it was just poetry in motion to see Nadal being man handled like that in a grand slam final after what he has done to Roger over the years. The third set was a blowout as Djokovic’s level dropped quite drastically from the first two sets. It was expected that he wouldn’t be able to keep up that unbelievable level and that Nadal would mount a fightback. I was getting nervous, because I know Nadal isn’t buried easily. Especially when Djokovic didn’t come out in the fourth set looking overly confident. Nadal has break points on his serve early on which he managed to defend. Then Djokovic got the crucial break.
In the next game came a potential match changing incident occurred. Nadal created a break point opportunity on the Djokovic serve, and he hit a service return which tipped the net and just crawled over out of the reach of Djokovic. Crucially Nadal broke back and Djokovic had failed to consolidate the break. Even though Nadal had clearly gotten lucky, I felt that Djokovic was showing serious nerves out there. He started hitting his forehand with too much spin which allowed Nadal to step into his forehand more. It looked like Djokovic may not have the mental fortitude to push home his advantage. My worst fear was flaring up again, which was that Nadal would have his way as usual in a slam final after some extraordinary luck. But to my great relief Djokovic got the break to take a 5-3 lead.
Djokovic held serve and it was all over. As I predicted Djokovic did not choke, although he did look somewhat fragile in the fourth set. But you have to give him credit for not letting that stroke of luck from Nadal get to him. He could easily have let it get into his head and if they went to a fifth set, the balance would have probably swung Nadal’s way. The mental ownage is now complete. This is another good thing for Roger. Djokovic is now in Nadal’s head the way Nadal is in Roger’s head. And it has a lot to do with the match up issue. To be honest I never felt that Nadal’s game was that hard to beat. It was mostly in the mental department where he beat his opponents. I have always though that Nadal is a pretty one dimensional player. And once someone came up with the right game plan and decent mental strength he was gonna struggle.
He has now lost in 5 straight finals to Djokovic and is showing no signs of figuring him out. It all comes down to Djokovic’s incredible backhand. Because Nadal is left handed he has the advantage of pounding right handed players into submission on the backhand side. We have seen him to this countless times to Roger. He also does it with everyone else. Well he can’t really do it with Murray, but Murray is too much of a choker to take advantage of it. Anyway this is what Nadal’s game comes down to. The fact that he is left handed simply is a huge advantage. But now that there is someone who’s game matches up well with him, I doubt he will find a solution. His cover has been blown. I think the reason Roger never found a solution to Nadal despite having a multi-dimensional game, is that the match up issue was too severe. The one handed backhand is too much of a liability against Nadal.
He could never really overcome it. But the match up issue for Nadal against Djokovic isn’t as bad as the Fedal one. I just think that Nadal will be too one-dimensional to solve it. As Roger has shown, you need a good net game to beat Djokovic, and Nadal isn’t good enough at the net. He has improved greatly in that area, but will never be anywhere near Roger in net skills(despite John Mcenroe’s idiotic comment that Nadal is a better net player than Roger). The fact is Nadal has limitations to his game. Anyway the point I was busy making is that match up is a very important thing, and because of it head-to-head records are overrated. Slam titles has and always will be more important than your head-to-head with any given player. The people who keep harping on Roger’s head-to-head with Nadal can go to hell now.
Djokovic now stands squarely in Nadal’s way in his quest to chase down Roger’s slam record. If he can beat Nadal in a slam final on his worst surface then he can do so anywhere. This also goes to prove my point that Djokovic would probably have beaten Nadal in the final of the French Open. So that makes Roger’s win over Djokovic at the French bittersweet, but it also makes that win from Roger more impressive. Djokovic is now 48-1 for the season, the only loss being against the GOAT. So even though I would have loved for Djokovic to beat Nadal at the French Open, I feel like today’s loss was overall a very positive thing for Roger. It must be difficult for Nadal to win 6 slams from here on with Djokovic around. Djokovic is now number one and I think he will dominate from here on. Then there is also Del Potro who can’t be discounted.
It must be tough for Nadal from here on to win hard court slams. And we know on natural surfaces Djokovic can beat Nadal now. So I would say Roger slam record is close to being safe, which is great news. And it is not out of the question that Roger can win one or two more slams. The French Open was a slam winning performance for Roger. It was almost perfect from start to finish. If he can go through another slam playing like that and has a decent draw he could add another slam. His game just has to click for two weeks, because it is still there.
Special thanks to Novak Djokovic, current and future preserver of Roger’s all important slam record.