How beautiful was that?! I was very grateful to be able to watch this match and that Djokovic played as well as he did. It didn’t start so well for Djokovic but it got better and better for him as the match progressed. Nadal drew first blood, breaking in the third and fifth games to take a 4-1 lead. Djokovic was looking out of sorts, maybe still feeling a little emotionally hung over after the mental battle with Raonic. He got one break back and pulled things back to 3-4, but Nadal held on to the second break and claimed the opening set 6-4. Djokovic was about to hit his stride however and unleash hell. He started like a house on fire and quickly raced to a 3-0 lead after breaking Nadal in the second game with a blistering cross court forehand pass. Djokovic’s lethal backhand was also beginning to inflict serious damage.
But the mental giant that Nadal is he was not gonna just let Djokovic run away with things as he broke Djokovic back when trailing 1-3 and 0-40. I mean the guy doesn’t give up on any match, any set, and game, or any point. Nadal would believe he can win at 0-6, 0-6, 0-5, and 0-40. Giving up has never been and never will be in his vocabulary. Djokovic then got the break right back after an extremely rare Nadal double fault on break point in the next game. It seemed like justice since Djokovic was broken in the last game after getting disturbed by the crowd between first and second serves on break point. 4-2 Djokovic. Both players held serve and at 5-3 Djokovic dug out a terrific volley at 15-30 to save that game and win the second set 6-3. Djokovic was lethal but I was afraid he would not be able to keep it up in the third set.
I was wrong to doubt him. Djokovic’s brutal backhand continued to rip holes in Nadal’s unreal defense as he broke him in the opening game. Djokovic’s world class returns were also swinging things in his favor. Only Nadal’s dogged determination kept him from getting broken a second time in the following game which was a marathon. Nadal is literally the only player in the history of the sport who could have avoided getting broken there. And as was the case in the second set Nadal got the break back to square things up at 3-3. But Djokovic would have none of it as he broke Nadal to 15 in the next game, held serve to love, and then broke Nadal again for good measure to win the decider 6-3. Just brutal hitting from the Serbian Slayer on his way to his third Rome title, third(Masters Series) title of the year, and nineteenth overall Masters Series title.
Kissed not bitten…is how we like it
That means he is 2 short of Roger’s 21 Masters titles. He will surely surpass Roger which would be quite an achievement given that he doesn’t rely so heavily on clay where there are 3 Masters, the way Nadal does. Still you would think Roger would be much closer to Nadal if there were at least 1 grass Masters and 2 on clay. This was also Djokovic’s fourth consecutive victory over Nadal which makes it even more delicious. In other words since the US Open Djokovic has cost Nadal an ATP 500, a Masters Cup, and 2 Masters. And with the way things are going he will cost him a slam in Paris too. I have said for a while now that I don’t think Nadal will win the French Open this year, and I also believe that this is Djokovic’s year to finally break through. And I think the Rome final will be quite telling as well.
I just don’t think that after what happened in Melbourne Nadal can come back to win the French Open, especially after losing to Djokovic in the Rome final as well. Maybe if he beat Djokovic he would have felt that he is right back to his best and then he could have gone on to win in Paris for a ninth time, but as things stand I’m not even discounting an early round exit by Nadal. I know you can never count him out, but my gut feeling says not this year. We will see. I’m just glad Djokovic won Rome and is back to his devastating best so soon after his wrist injury. It has really been a highly impressive week from him in Rome. He had a brutal draw which got more difficult with each round, and needed three sets to win all but his first match. He now gets a much deserved break before Paris which will be good for his wrist too.
I think this is the year that Nadal falls and Djokovic rises folks. I don’t want to set expectations but that is what my intuition tells me anyway. We will see because admittedly my track record at predicting Nadal’s results are poor. That is because I like to underestimate him. I figure if I keep underestimating him I have to get it right eventually. But if I’m wrong then Nadal is right back on track to catch Roger so hopefully I’m not. Well it was nice to finally catch up on tennis some more this week and it looks like I may get back into tennis offline after all, this time as a coach. The money is just much better for tennis coaching than it is for teaching English here in Thailand and I have a very good opportunity right now. I guess tennis is just in my blood and it would be fun to get back on court after such a long time away from it.
I hope you enjoyed this result as much as I did!