Wow. What a 1st day that was! Mind-blowing stuff. First Roger puts on a masterclass over Hanescu and then Nadal gets destroyed by Darcis! It doesn’t get any better than that folks. I wasn’t able to watch Roger’s match but I did catch the whole of Nadal’s match against Darcis. The highlights from Roger’s match was not made available in the US either so I won’t be able to comment much on it. All I know from what I’ve read in the forums and the match stats is that Roger played really well, which was great to see this morning. Roger made 70% first serves, hit 7 aces, won 21/25 points at the net, converted 6/8 break points, hit 32 winners, and made only 6 unforced errors in his 6-3, 6-2, 6-0 win over Hanescu. Granted this is just Hanescu, but still a very confident start and just what was needed. The Halle title clearly boosted Roger’s confidence.
As the defending champ Roger opened proceedings on center court today and Nadal still had to play his match after Roger was finished. So Roger was playing well regardless of whether Nadal was still in the draw. He has been very positive in his pressers and I really don’t think the fact that Nadal was in his quarter affected him. And rightly so because there was still a long way to go and he had no reason to be afraid of Nadal on grass. In my last post I mentioned Nadal could be upset before the quarters. I didn’t know much about Darcis so I didn’t entertain the possibility that he could upset Nadal. But given the fact that Nadal has made all the finals of the last 9 events he played, and looking more vulnerable than ever at the French Open, this loss shouldn’t come as totally unexpected like the one against Soderling at the French Open did.
Last year Nadal was also pushed in the French Open final by Djokovic and he ended up losing to Rosol in the 2nd round of Wimbledon. You had the feeling that he was almost relieved to win the French Open after all the beatings he took at the hands of Djokovic. Djokovic has done serious damage to Nadal. Make no mistake about it. He is not the player he was before all those beatings from Djokovic. You just feel like Nadal’s dominance outside of clay is slipping fast. He still dominated the clay court season, but only marginally. Djokovic is pushing him around on clay too. So it takes more out of him to dominate on clay and he feels more vulnerable outside of it. This is now the second year running that he gets eliminated before the 3rd round. I find it funny how people made Nadal the favorite for Wimbledon this year.
I mean 9/9 finals since his return on apparently fragile knees. Who plays that much? Something had to give. Of course I thought he was a possible danger at Wimbledon too, but the possibility of an early upset was always there. Clearly Nadal still hasn’t learned how to schedule properly. Even Nadal, who seems to have limitless physical powers, can’t keep grinding it out forever. Today he got straight setted 7-6(4), 7-6(8), 6-4 by world #110 in the 1st round of his 2nd favorite slam. And again it underscores the one-dimensional nature of his game. This match was great entertainment. Darcis is a pretty short guy, but he has a good all round game. Definitely a talented player, like most Belgians are. He was just ripping the ball out there and playing freely. He also has a very good slice. But maybe the most interesting thing is that he has a one-handed backhand.
Usually Nadal can exploit the one-handed backhands, but Darcis’ backhand held up extremely well. I was really impressed with it. The fact that it is grass and it is still the first week doesn’t hurt of course. The ball stays lower and the bounce is even. The main thing for Darcis was to keep it together mentally. In the first set he had a ridiculous amount of break points but could not convert. Darcis then finally broke serve at 5-5, but Nadal broke right back to force a tie break. Darcis did well to win the tie break, but of course it was far from over. In the second set Darcis kept up his good play but this time it was him who got broken at 5-5. He managed to break back as well and forced another tie break. Darcis was up 6-3 but Nadal broke back and evened things up. This was a crucial stage in the match and I thought Darcis was about to choke, but he stayed mentally strong and won the 2nd set.
It still wasn’t over, but after Nadal’s early exit last year you felt it just might happen again. And when Darcis broke serve at the start of the 3rd set it was becoming a very real possibility. Darcis served for the match at 5-4 and played a terrific game for a spectacular victory. Nadal badly needed to win this Wimbledon to stay in touch with Roger’s slam record and he failed miserably. I think the GOAT debate is over. Nadal has lost before the 3rd round of his 2nd favorite slam in the last 2 years. It was unbelievable how he went on a tear of 7/9 titles since his comeback, but all of a sudden it becomes clear how he has declined. Djokovic basically ripped Nadal’s heart out over a 12 month period from Indian Wells 2011 to the Australian Open of 2012. In this period he defeated him in 7 consecutive finals, including 3 slam finals, and threatened his clay dominance.
Was it not for some luck going Nadal’s way in Paris, Djokovic would have shattered his clay dominance as well this year. That could have been Nadal’s last slam title. Probably not but it’s not impossible either. It’s hard to see him being a threat at a hard court slam with the state of his knees and with Djokovic, Murray, and Roger who will all stand in his way. It’s equally hard to see him win Wimbledon now. The clay court season is taking more out of him than in the past and by the time Wimbledon swings around he seems burned out. The only slam I see him winning still is of course the French Open, and I think Djokovic is coming very close indeed to slaying the monster there. I can easily see Djokovic winning the French Open in 2014 and Nadal winning no slams. In 2015 he will be pushing 29 and his body will break down even more.
One wonders what will be his next move after this loss. During the match he was grabbing his knee and ran around his backhand because it was hurting his knee to hit a backhand, but it’s always hard to know with Nadal. Didn’t he just win the French Open where he chased down balls like Superman? Then he skipped Halle to take a 2 week break. Why would he be injured in the 1st round of Wimbledon? But lets say he was injured, then why didn’t he play less since his comeback? He could have at least skipped Barcelona during the clay court season, but instead he plays every event he could squash into his schedule. So in the end if he is actually injured, then once again it is because of bad scheduling. He never learns. Will he take another 8 months off the tour now? Probably not. He will probably make the best he can of the rest of the season.
It’s not exactly his favorite part of the season though. My last prediction was that he could probably win 2 more French Opens, and then I started thinking he can chase down Roger’s record. Things change fast in tennis. So we probably shouldn’t be too quick to make judgments. I guess I’ll stick to my original prediction that he can win 2 more French Opens, but even that isn’t sure anymore. At 27 the years of grinding must start to take its toll. It is just inevitable. He will be back next year for the clay season and be a threat as always. Maybe if he plays a reduced schedule from now on he can stay injury free. Clearly he needs to try and avoid hard court. Whatever the case may be things aren’t looking great for Nadal at this point, and his last chance to catch up with Roger most probably just slipped away.
It’s a glorious day. I have always enjoyed Nadal’s losses immensely and I am not afraid to admit it. I guess it’s the competitor in me. And of course being a Fedfan this feels like sweet justice. Nadal has done a lot of damage to Roger in his career and it is clear now that Djokovic has done the same to Nadal. And I for one am just loving these early round exits from Nadal. Especially at Wimbledon which is the sacred grounds of tennis, and which Nadal has made ugly with his ugly base line game and gamesmanship. He even went as far as to criticize past Wimbledon greats like Sampras and Ivanisevic, calling their game styles ‘not really tennis’. He doesn’t respect past greats and tradition, and he felt like a dark cloud hanging over Wimbledon. So I feel like today was Nadal’s karma and Wimbledon has been liberated.
The loss to Rosol hurt Nadal, but this one against Darcis destroyed him. I always thought it was such a shame that Nadal won Wimbledon in 2008. Roger was still recovering from mono and was never even took the lead in that final. I think that match is highly overrated and had Roger not contracted mono at the start of the season, he would have beaten Nadal. Nadal, the eternal opportunist, saw his chance and took it with both hands. Then his other title came against a pathetic Berdych in the final. Nadal not only took advantage of sick and useless players, but he also took advantage of something which could be referred to as ‘green clay’. He has always been vulnerable in the first week of Wimbledon when the grass was not warn out yet, and in the last 2 years he couldn’t even beat journeymen on it.
Imagine what would have happened to him on 90’s grass which was much faster and lower bouncing. But ok Nadal won his titles fair and square. I’m just glad it’s over. As for Roger it’s not over. I can see him winning an 8th Wimbledon title. I have already said that would be the ultimate. In the past I wanted him to win one more US Open to get the record there, but that was before he equaled Sampras’ record at Wimbledon. I now want more than anything for him to get that Wimbledon record, and it already feels like it’s written in the stars. And at the same time it feels like I am getting very greedy. Do we dare ask for one more slam, a slam that would be the crowning glory and establish Roger once and for all as the undisputed GOAT? It just seems so peRFect. The greatest player ever winning the most titles ever at the most important tournament ever.
Loving the colored soles. Nice touch.
I don’t think it’s asking too much. I think it’s asking destiny to fulfill itself. It just seems right somehow. But of course it is important not to become attached to the outcome. It is still gonna be very difficult. Will it happen this year? Not necessarily but the sooner the better. It would also be fitting if Roger does it right after Nadal won an 8th French Open. I think the departure of Nadal does take some pressure off Roger. Whether Roger was excited about playing Nadal or not, the idea of having to face his nemesis as early as the quarter finals does add pressure. Now that Nadal is a goner he can just relax a little and maybe play a little more freely. Not that he didn’t look relaxed against Hanescu. The draw is just a little less daunting now. Instead of having to beat the 3 toughest opponents in the world to win the title, it is now only 2.
Having to beat Nadal, Murray, and Djokovic in succession is a near impossible task. I don’t think it’s ever been done. At least now the task is possible, all be it still very difficult. Roger beat Djokovic and Murray in succession last year to win the title, so he knows he can do it. Of the two players Murray is the biggest obstacle, as Roger admitted himself. But as usual I am getting way ahead of myself. I am just delighted with Roger’s form today and the fact that Nadal lost. I said in my last post I would be satisfied if Nadal did not win the tournament. Never did I imagine that wish would be granted so early. So I am a happy camper. But seeing that Nadal is out and Roger is looking ready to rumble, I am of course gonna hope for more. Right now I just want to take it one match at a time and enjoy all of it. Anything can still happen, as we were reminded today.
Next for Roger is Stakhovsky. They have played once before at Dubai in 2011. Roger won 6-3, 6-4. Stakhovsky is a pretty talented player who can do some damage on a good day, but I don’t see him being a serious threat for Roger as long as Roger keeps his good run of form going. Elsewhere in the bottom half Murray won easily over Becker and is still looking like a big threat. It was also good to see Hewitt who is from Roger’s prime era having a straight set win over Stan. He still has great intensity and loves playing at Wimbledon. A Hewitt/Roger quarter final is not out of the question. Hewitt struggles to go deep in slams these days but I think he will get past Brown in the next round. Then probably Isner who would be his toughest test. I’m not sure who will make the 4th round in Nadal’s bracket. Probably Darcis or Paire, and Hewitt could beat either of them.
Or who knows, Darcis could continue his impressive run and make the quarters. So it’s probably between Hewitt, Isner, Paire, and Darcis concerning who Roger will face in the quarters if he gets that far. I’d love for it to be Hewitt. Isner could be difficult although Roger handles big servers well. Paire or Darcis won’t be much of a threat. The quarter finals is still a long way to go. I just thought a Federer/Hewitt quarter final would be awesome. Anyway it’s nice to see players like Hewitt and Haas from Roger’s prime era still flying the flag. Well this post has become awfully long. I am having so much fun writing it that I hardly noticed. This is one of the longest posts I have ever written, never mind in recent times. I hope you didn’t get bored. I haven’t had this kind of time to blog in the last year and I miss it. Guess I am making up for lost time!
This Wimbledon has started off in the best way possible and I intend to enjoy every moment of it. I have a good feeling folks. I am starting to think Roger has a real chance here. But of course there is still a long way to go. I just like the energy that Roger has brought to the 2nd part of the season and Wimbledon. It bodes well for the rest of Wimbledon and the season. Wimbledon is also special and brings something extra out of Roger. I am now more excited about this Wimbledon than ever and I am gonna try my hardest to watch all of it and keep you guys updated. As always, one match at a time!
Highlights(I finally found some!):
Stroke of genius:
Pre-Wimbledon presser: http://www.wimbledon.com/en_GB/news/interviews/2013-06-23/201306231372007073991.html
‘For me it’s great to be back here with a shot at defending my title 10 years on, but it’s gone by in a heartbeat it seems.
‘There has to be some anxiety, the drive to achieve great things.
‘I’m not here to get to the third round, I’m here to do exceptional stuff and make the latest stages of the tournament, going through incredible atmospheres out on Centre Court. – RF