I feel like I’ve been on a bit of a roll. Tennis has taken a very interesting turn of late and I feel inspired to write an awful lot. There are currently many topics on my mind, but I have settled for this one today because I feel it’s very relevant. I hope you have enjoyed all my posts of late anyway. There are about two more weeks to go before the next relevant tournament starts in Beijing and I’m too excited about tennis to just wait it out. Making posts keeps me, and hopefully you, busy while we are waiting for the next event to start. As usual there are plenty of interesting comments on my blog so thanks for that. It’s always good to have different perspectives and it gives my readers a different perspective too. I think if everything I said was just accepted as truth without anyone ever challenging it that would have been boring for you and I.
Federer’s Heartbreak Against Nadal
The first topic I want to get to is Federer’s most damaging loss to Nadal. I think anyone with some tennis knowledge would agree that Federer’s most damaging loss to Nadal was in the 2009 Australian Open final. Most people know the story, but I’ll give a quick recap. Nadal played the marathon semi-final with Verdasco which went to five sets and then he had only one day of rest before the final as he played the second semi-final. Federer, on the other hand, straight-setted Roddick in the first semi-final and had two days of rest. So Nadal went into the final with a distinct physical disadvantage. Nadal desperately needed to make a good start which he did by winning the first set 7-5. Federer hit back and won the second set 6-3. In the third set, Federer had Nadal at 4-4 and 0-40 on his serve. If he takes one of those break points and holds his serve, it is game, set, and match given Nadal’s tiredness. Federer fails to convert however but at 5-5 he is presented with three more break points when he has Nadal at 15-40 as well as an advantage in his favor. Again Federer fails to convert which would have Nadal in ruins and the rest is history. Nadal wins the third set after Federer serves a double fault on set point in the tie-break. Federer fights back to win the fourth set 6-3 but in the fifth where you’d think Nadal is once again for the taking Federer puts up little resistance to lose it 2-6. Federer had failed to put Nadal away when he was a sitting duck and he paid a very steep price. His lack of killer instinct had once and for all been severely laid bare as he broke down in the closing ceremony unable to hold back the tears and disappointment. And frankly, it was embarrassing because it was a sense of entitlement that caused him to break down and take the spotlight off Nadal which he deserved with an extremely gutsy victory. Federer’s mental weakness and sense of entitlement had once and for all been exposed and it wasn’t a pretty sight. Let’s be honest. I’m by no means a Nadal fan, but I felt bad for him that Federer’s breakdown took so much attention away from his victory. It wasn’t his fault that Federer could not put away the sitting duck. He just did the logical thing which was to take advantage of it and given his physical disadvantage he deserved a lot of credit for it. I was a huge fan of Federer’s game for a long time but I never really forgave him for what happened that day. The loss was devastating but the fact that he broke down and cried like a baby was really what bothered me. The choking was embarrassing enough as it is. But then he had to cry and make it about himself afterward as well. It was like a spoiled brat who had his favorite toy taken away from him so he threw a tantrum in front of the whole world.
Djokovic’s Heartbreak Against Nadal
Djokovic went through something very similar with Nadal. And again, I think most people would agree that it happened at the 2013 French Open. There he lost to Nadal in the semi-finals after being a break up in the fifth set. He was on the brink of once and for all defeating Nadal at the French Open and completing the career slam because had he won he would have faced Ferrer in the final who was hitting practice for Djokovic. But in a cruel twist of fate the umpire Pascal Maria gave Djokovic a time violation at a crucial point in the fifth set after which Djokovic touched the net and lost a crucial point that he was well in control of. In the fourth set, Djokovic was already on the brink of losing when Nadal broke serve and would serve for the match at 6-5. Djokovic broke back and won the tie break to force a deciding set in which he broke Nadal in the opening game. Then the incident occurred with Djokovic serving at 4-3 in the fifth set. Djokovic was in a state of disbelief after the incident occurred and lost his focus and his serve. The match went deep into a fifth set which Nadal eventually won 9-7. Utter devastation. Djokovic was on the brink of finally slaying the monster in his stronghold after arguably already being denied by a rain break in the final the year before.
How They Dealt With It
In the short term, Federer seemed to deal much better with heartbreak at the hands of Nadal than Djokovic did. After his devastating loss to Nadal Federer went on to complete the career slam at the French Open and won the channel slam for the first time when he won Wimbledon(keep in mind Nadal was out of the picture). In the process, he also surpassed Sampras’ slam record of 14 titles. Djokovic, on the other hand, seemed deeply affected by what happened at the French Open. He lost to Murray in the 2013 Wimbledon final and again to Nadal in the US Open final. He even lost in the quarterfinals at his favorite Australian Open the following year. And at the 2014 French Open he also lost to Nadal in the final yet again. Things were getting desperate for Djokovic. It looked as though he would be stuck on 6 slams indefinitely, the same number of slams that his coach Becker had won who is a legend of the sport. So it wasn’t such a bad thing after all. I really thought that may have been the end of Djokovic as far as winning slams went. It had been a great run, but he didn’t seem to have much luck. But here is where the big difference came. Where Federer choked away another final against Del Potro at the US Open in 2009 after being a set and a break up, Djokovic was getting ready to once again stun the tennis world. Where Federer never truly recovered emotionally from that loss in Melbourne to Nadal(the beatings at the hand of Nadal only got worse since then), Djokovic had plotted his revenge and was about to carry it out in no uncertain terms. Appearances can be deceiving. Federer seemed to be over the Australian Open loss in no time, where in truth he was scarred for life from it. He never exorcised those demons because at each consecutive meeting with Nadal in Melbourne the beatings got worse. And the head-to-head with Nadal went from bad to complete ownage. Federer’s main rival utterly owned him which left a gaping hole in his resume. Djokovic, on the other hand, seemed to take his time to get over his heartbreak loss and used it to make him even stronger than he was before. In a stunning display of dominance, he won four of the next six grand slams to increase his slam total from 6 to 10. He has not picked up that elusive French Open title yet, but only a fool would bet against him doing so. This post is not about winning the French Open anyway. It’s about how Djokovic and Federer dealt with Nadal and their respective characters. This goes back to their childhoods too I believe.
Djokovic had to battle adversity and setbacks from the beginning which prepared him well for the brutal world of professional tennis. Federer’s coach Peter Carter died as well when he was young which was a setback, but I don’t think anyone would deny that these two grew up in vastly different surroundings. The loss to Nadal was not the first big disappointment Djokovic had to fight back from and come back stronger. He came from a war-torn Serbia and economic hardship to defy immense odds and become one of the all-time tennis greats. I have huge respect for that. The US Open final was another example of battling adversity and defying the odds. You can read more about the disgraceful behaviour of Fedfanatics in that final in this post. Fedfanatics are turning out to be quite the embarrassment in their entitled and arrogant attitude as their hero runs out of time to win that elusive #18. I guess they are not very unlike Federer in displaying those characteristics. Like attracts like after all. But I think I will reserve a whole post for dealing with them and their classless ways. And let me just make it clear that there are many decent Fedfans, many of whom comment on my blog and who I admire and respect. What I am referring to here is the extremist kind who needs to be mercilessly dealt with.
Ok, so I just wanted to end this post on a positive note. I think the way Djokovic dealt with heartbreak at the hands of Nadal as opposed to the way Federer dealt with it bodes very well for his future. Whereas Federer kept running away from Nadal, Djokovic faced him head on and eventually destroyed him in straight sets in his stronghold in Paris. He has also won six of the last seven meetings with Nadal. He gained the upper hand on Nadal in 2011-12, then lost it in 2013, and now he is well on top again. And this time he will stay on top. I am actually hoping for some sort of comeback from Nadal to see some more Djokodal encounters. I want Djokovic to end with a positive head-to-head with Nadal and give him some more good beatings in slams. That is if Nadal does not run away like he prefers to do, but Djokovic had the last laugh anyway. One thing you have to credit Nadal for is his mental strength and he has given both Federer and Djokovic the toughest losses of their lives, but the responses from the two players were vastly different and that was the point I wanted to make in this post. Djokovic used it to make him stronger while Federer allowed it to make him weaker to the point where Djokovic is now starting to own him too. Opinions? Facts? The is in your court.