Hello friends. Before I continue with this post let me just clear up something which still does not seem to get through to some people after all this time: This is not a fan blog, it is a tennis blog. Even fan blogs are tennis blogs, because they won’t exist without tennis. I called this blog Ruans Federer Blog because I am a huge fan of Federer, but I am an even bigger fan of tennis. I was a tennis player myself, and I was in love with the sport when I played. I was a fan of tennis the day since I picked up a racquet, which was when I was probably around 8 years old. I don’t remember the exact age because it was too long ago, but the point is that I am not your average tennis fan. It’s easy for me to spot people who are not really tennis fans but fans of a particular player. While I don’t mind these people following my blog it is not what my blog is about.
Federer himself would be the first to admit that he is not bigger than the sport, and he himself is probably the biggest tennis fan in the world. He loves the sport and is always trying to do what is best for it, unlike Nadal who is just looking after his own interests. To think that the player you are a fan of is bigger than the sport is kind of being like Nadal, because you don’t care about the sport as a whole. You just want your player to do well and to hell with the rest. This is not what my blog is about at all. I love tennis as a whole and although Roger is my favorite I take an interest in other players, and I will keep following tennis after Roger has left the sport. For instance I love the Djokodal rivalry because it is so competitive and Djokovic is the first player ever who is a constant threat to Nadal.
And then of course Djokovic is helping to protect Roger’s legacy. If it wasn’t for Djokovic then Nadal would already be on 16 slams and would have that illusive Masters Cup title in the bag, as well as several more Masters Series titles. It is exhilarating for me to watch someone man up to Nadal the way Djokovic has, and of course the favorable match up has a lot to do with that. It is an intriguing rivalry because Djokovic is the first guy who can physically hang with Nadal, while his backhand neutralizes the usual topspin cross court forehand from Nadal which does so much damage to right handers. And especially to those with one-handed backhands like Roger himself. Then Nadal has never had the best serve among the top players and Djokovic can take advantage of that as well with his world class returns.
I know many Fedfans don’t find the Djokodal rivalry interesting in the least, which makes me wonder if they are tennis fans at all. In that case it seems to me like they can only appreciate one style of tennis, and that is not what being a tennis fan is about. A true tennis fan can appreciate many different styles because they love tennis, not just a particular player. Ask any true tennis fan and they will tell you that the Djokodal rivalry is as good as it gets in tennis. And I am not even talking about the pre 2011 Djokodal rivalry. It showed potential back then already but of course Djokovic has transformed as a player since 2011. You really have the perfect match up now with one of the best forehands the game has ever seen against one of the best backhands the game has ever seen.
If you cannot appreciate it I have to seriously question your depth as a tennis fan. The sheer drama and level of tennis these two have displayed is the stuff of legend. They have had some incredible matches like the 2012 Australian Open final and the 2013 French Open final. It doesn’t get any better for sheer drama and quality of tennis. And again if you can’t appreciate those matches then you are not a tennis fan in my book. You may be a Fedfan, but you are not a tennis fan. But let me get back to Rome. Nadal and Djokovic will face off for the 41st time with the head-to-head standing at 22-18 in Nadal’s favor. Now that is what you would call a competitive rivalry, and for the sensitive Fedfans: no, that was not a dig at Roger and the Fedal rivalry. Anyway, yesterday Djokovic defeated Raonic in three very close sets while Nadal destroyed Dimitrov.
I was grateful to be able to watch both matches. I thought Raonic played incredibly well and was deeply impressed with his clay court game. I never thought he could play that well on clay with a game that is best suited to faster surfaces. Djokovic kept threatening his serve in the first set but he kept coming up with clutch plays and then against the run of play won the first set on a tie break. The second set then went down to the wire too and as clutch as Djokovic is he raised his game and won it. Then in the opening game of the third set he broke serve and that proved to be enough to break Raonic’s resolve. Djokovic then broke in the final game for good measure to win the final set 6-3. I was deeply impressed with both players. Djokovic for fending off a rampant opponent after being out of the sport due to injury.
Raonic for showing a clay court game that can hang with the very best. It is nice to see the youngsters coming on so well this year. Dimitrov, Raonic, Nishikori, and Dolgopolov have all showed great form so far this year. Nishikori and Raonic is now both top 10, Dimitrov is top 20, and Dologopolov just outside the top 20 currently. We have waited a while for new talent to make their move and it is good to see the new generation finally arriving. Back to Rome and the Nadal vs Dimitrov encounter turned out to be a blowout with Nadal routining Dimitrov 6-2, 6-2. Nadal looked to be back to his devastating best on clay as he ripped Dimitrov to shreds. Before Madrid Nadal was literally in ruins. Then the top players either withdraws or loses early in Madrid and Nadal’s gets lucky in the final against Nishikori.
Nadal fights through a few more tough three setters in Rome and voila, all of a sudden he is back to his devastating best. This is how fast things can change in tennis, especially if you have a relentless will like Nadal and an unmatched desire to succeed. You can attribute it to luck, but luck explains little. Nadal refuses to accept defeat and in doing so he makes his own luck. Of course he got lucky against Nishikori, but had he given up he would still have lost. He kept trying, even though he was getting destroyed out there. This is the reason Nadal wins many matches he really should be losing, and why people call him lucky. I’m just being brutally honest and fair, and I couldn’t really care less if Fedfans don’t like it. The only thing I answer to is my own conscience. So now we have yet another Djokodal final.
And to predict a winner is difficult. Both players will feel very confident after the way they negotiated their semi-finals. Nadal due to the ease with which he swept aside a very talented youngster, and Djokovic for how clutch he was against another very dangerous youngster. Everyone thought that Dimitrov could be a serious threat to Nadal and yet Nadal made him look like an amateur. A lot of people also thought Raonic would not provide Djokovic with much opposition and again the opposite turned out to be true. I actually think the result of the final could have a bearing on who wins the French Open. If Djokovic wins he would like his chances going into the French Open, given how vulnerable Nadal has looked since Melbourne. So I think this is another important match for Nadal’s confidence.
He has played himself back into form but he has not yet faced a serious threat since doing so. To get his full confidence back he needs to beat Djokovic. If Djokovic beats Nadal it could once again put doubt in his mind, just like he did in the final of Miami. Nadal was building his confidence back up there but look what happened after he lost to Djokovic in that final. Therefor I feel it is crucial that Djokovic beats Nadal if Nadal is gonna be stopped from biting yet another French Open trophy. If Djokovic beats Nadal, an early round exit for Nadal at the French is still on the cards in my opinion. So I really want Djokovic to win today. I have already explained in my last post why I don’t want Nadal to win the French Open this year. And after all this time I think Djokovic deserves the title anyway.