It’s funny how things work out sometimes. I have always given Nadal little respect and underestimated him. But since the beginning of the year I changed my strategy and overestimated him instead. I said I have him winning two slams this year and I refused to call the Djoker the favorite again for today, secretly hoping that I would be wrong again and somehow jinx the situation. And low and behold, that’s how it played out. They say what you resist persists, and I now believe even more in that saying. I stopped resisting Nadal and he suffered a massive setback today.
The Djoker did it! He slayed the beast 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 after six failures. So first of all a massive congrats to him. He never gave up. He kept coming back again and again after many bitter defeats and finally exorcised his demons. I have recently become a big fan of the Djoker, but I am now a huge fan. He truly proved himself to be the anti-Nadal today as he completed the career slam in Nadal defeats. No one else has ever done that. He is also 14-7 in the head-to-head against Nadal since the beginning of Djoker 2.0.
- Opening Set
The Djoker got a blistering start as he raced to a 4-0 lead in no time. A bagel was even looking possible. The point that the Djoker won to get the second break at 3-0 was unbelievable. He was looking in ominous form. But he couldn’t consolidate a second time as Nadal broke back. That was still ok I thought. As long as he could hold serve and take a 5-2 lead he would still be in great shape. But that’s when the old demons came back to haunt the Djoker.
On the opening point of his service game, he hit a sitter drive volley into the net with an open court in front of him. That was the first big choke and a sign of more to come. On break point for Nadal, the Djoker opened up the court with an attacking point and dumped another short forehand into the net. The demons from six previous French Open losses to Nadal had reared its ugly head. This was a very discouraging sign. I feared six losses to Nadal at the French was might be too much of an emotional burden to overcome.
But as we know by now, the Djoker is a fighter. He steadied the ship with a love service hold at 4-4. At 5-4 on Nadal’s serve, the Djoker was back on the offense and created two set points, but again he would fail to take advantage. This was becoming increasingly frustrating and concerning. The situation was reaching a boiling point. The Djoker then played another competent game on serve as he held serve to 15 to take a 6-5 lead. In Nadal’s next service game the Djoker missed two more set points I think.
It was unbearable to watch. I definitely did not want to see a tie break because Nadal is so clutch. And I felt the first set was an absolute must win for the Djoker. But thank God he finally took a set point with a forehand pass that forced the error from Nadal. Great relief washed over me.
- Second Set
I knew this battle was far from won. Someone on twitter told me that if the Djoker wins the second set his winning chances goes to 60-40, while if he loses the second set it goes to 75-25 in the favor of Nadal. I didn’t want to believe it, but it was probably true. Nadal is unbelievably difficult to put away over five sets on clay. It had only ever happened once in history before today. For me, the Djoker desperately had to win the second set as well if he wanted to win the match.
Both players kept holding serve until 4-3 where the Djoker unleashed some more winners from the improved forehand side. He set up a break point and forced Nadal into error with another forceful inside-out forehand. Big time! Now he was only one service game away from a two sets to love lead. But of course at 5-3 I would be tortured by another long service game where I think Nadal had a break back point. Finally on one deuce point the Djoker gambled with a serve-and-volley play which paid off after he made a genius half-volley angled winner.
When I saw Nadal’s return I thought he was screwed for sure, but the Djoker picked it up off his shoe laces for a winner that even Roger would find hard to pull off. He then took the set point as well after another inside-out forehand which Nadal could not handle. Thank God! The worst torture was over. But I knew the match was not nearly over. It never is against Nadal on clay until the handshake.
- Third Set
The Djoker wasted another two break points in the opening game of the third set but broke after a delicious point which saw Nadal not put away an overhead and making a mess of a sitter forehand volley. Importantly he also consolidated, but only after almost making another mess with a forehand drive volley. Then in the next game there was another delicious moment as the Djoker broke serve after a return from him clipped the net and dropped over out of the reach of Nadal.
I felt if the Djoker consolidated his next service game he would be as good as home, and at 40-30 he hilariously got another lucky net cord which dropped out of the reach of Nadal. It was a glorious sight. Now the final set bagel was even on the cards, but Nadal managed to avoid that humiliation in the next game. The Djoker then held serve to take a 5-1 lead, and in the final game an utterly defeated Nadal double faulted at 0-40 on his serve. The monster was slayed!
- Closing Observations
The way this match played out was just perfect. It was everything I hoped for and more. I prepared for the worst but got rewarded with the best. The 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 scoreline is ideal. No tie-break and a bakery product. They say revenge is a dish best served cold. Well, today the Djoker served his revenge cold. It was something Roger could never do, but the Djoker doing it is just as good to me. Roger actually complicated things greatly for the Djoker and for himself by defeating the Djoker in the 2011 French Open semis.
If the Djoker won there I’m sure he would have defeated Nadal by a similar scoreline in the final. He was that confident back then. And now he had all the demons from the losses to Nadal since then to battle as well. He came close to choking again but heroically fought through his demons. If he had beaten Nadal back in 2011 then Nadal wouldn’t be on 14 slams now and threatening Roger’s record. And the Djoker wouldn’t have suffered all those brutal losses to Nadal at the French.
But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger they say, and the Djoker finally got his revenge today. If it wasn’t for him Nadal would also be on 17 slams by now and the GOAT. So for me, if anyone deserves this title it is him. I really hope he gets it. He deserves the career slam and he can get the calendar slam this year as well for all I care, but that is still as unlikely in my mind as it’s always been. I just think a guy who can come back from six devastating losses to Nadal at the French and win is a hero basically.
He deserves it all now. It takes immense mental strength and perseverance what he did and he has my utmost respect. Today the backhand of doom was probably the trump card again, but mainly the Djoker just hit Nadal off the court with 45 winners against 16 and the same amount of unforced errors for both(30). Yes, Nadal has declined but like I said the Djoker had past demons to deal with. So he was playing two opponents, clearly evidenced by a few absolute sitters that he missed and failing to convert break point 11 times.
With this result I feel a heavy burden has been lifted off the ATP Tour. I’m sick of Nadal’s moonballing, gamesmanship, time-wasting, grunting, endless retrieving, complaining about rules that don’t suit his agenda, and many more things. I feel a certain elation today. Nadal’s reign of terror over the clay court season has finally been broken. A savior arrived at long last. This was Nadal’s last stronghold on tour and today it was shattered. Nadal also falls to number 10 in the ATP rankings with this loss.
It’s hard to see him winning another slam now. He will be back next year I’m sure, but he will now struggle immensely to beat the Djoker at the French, and many other players will be a threat too. He may well be stuck on 14 slams indefinitely now, which I always thought was an appropriate number for him. He is the clay GOAT and mentally probably the strongest in history. But he is no GOAT. Not even close. In fact I think the Djoker could well surpass him in due time.
- Murray Defeats Ferrer
Well, I clearly don’t have much time left for this match but Murray won 7-6(4), 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 after leading 3-0 in the fourth set and Ferrer saving several match points. It’s what you would expect from Ferrer, but another very good win for Murray nonetheless and he makes a third French Open semi with it. This, of course, means that he plays the Djoker in the semis and I think the Djoker got that one under control after defeating the clay monster in straight sets no less.
I was expecting another five-set marathon that leaves the Djoker physically impaired, but he goes back to being the favorite for the title to me now. The win at long last against Nadal will give him an immense confidence to finally win the career slam. He has the draw from hell if Stan defeats Tsonga(which I expect), but he is good enough to get the job done. Stan is a slightly bigger threat than Murray I think, but I just think the fact that the Djoker defeated Nadal in straight sets today will give him the edge to go all the way.
The is in your court.