King Rafa

Sep 14, 2010

Grass?…check.

Clay?….check.

Hard courts of Australia?…check.

Hard courts of the USA?…check.

Rafael Nadal has become one of only seven men who have achieved a career Grand slam; they’ve won every Grand Slam on the calendar. Clay, grass, hard court, they are kings of them all. Let’s face it, no-one is surprised that Rafa has achieved this kind of accolade. If there is anyone out there who can match the likes of Agassi, Federer, Rod Laver and Fred Perry, it’s our man from Majorca.

So, not many of us were surprised by his victory over Serbian Novak Djokovic lastnight. Novak is no push over, but this is Rafael Nadal. Nothing but losing an arm and a leg would keep him off the tennis court or from achieving what he wants to achieve. Look at Wimbledon; years of being beaten on grass by Federer, years of trying to break the mould of being a ‘clay court player’, and he eventually got his reward in 2008 in one of the most epic finals of all time.

The match started off tense but even in promise; Djokovic appeared to be in for the long run in the second set, capitalising on some uncharacteristic Nadal mistakes to get the second set. The third swung from the favour of one man to another; bursts of intense play from Djokovic left Rafa hitting mid-air, then suddenly it was a Nadal master-class in how to win points, and Nole was left to take his frustrations out on his racket. Rafa’s serve was a force to be reckoned with, getting him out of many a sticky situation. Unfortunately, Novak’s serve still isn’t where he would like to be, and there will undoubtedly be some rumination over the serve for many months to come.

The heavens started to play havoc with the match again, opening up over Flushing Meadows and creating a tense one hour 50 minute wait for the skies to clear and the court to be dried. For once, Wimbledon hasn’t been one of the most rainy events of the year.

The rain delay didn’t appear, at first, to have done much to the two players’ levels of intensity. In fact the first few games back on court were brutal, demonstrating the determination of the pair not to let the weather get the advantage over them.

When the tiredness did kick in, it was with Djokovic. When he started to flag, Nadal dug into that inhuman recess of strength he keeps for events like this, and used it to play out the rest of the match. On championship point, the ‘Vamos Rafa!!’s were deafening. At three hours and 43 minutes, Djokovic pushed a forehand long on championship point and Nadal fell to his cursed knees in celebration. He had completed the set, the entire calendar of Grand Slam events, and his emotion belayed just how much that achievement meant to him at that moment in time, and probably for the rest of his life.

Of course, we must extend commiserations to Novak Djokovic. His turn will come, and I know I’m not the only one who is sure of that. Once that serve is sorted and if he continues the sort of mentality and physicality he found in this US Open tournament, he will be an undeniable worry to others for the title. And ranking number two in the world towards the end of the year isn’t bad, particularly when it’s ahead of Roger Federer.

Congratulations Rafael Nadal, and be prepared for the comparisons to Federer to only proliferate from here on in. Already they are thinking Nadal could achieve Federer’s 16 Grand Slams, and has so many more years left in him to maybe even overtake him. But for now I think it’s best to let the dust settle and let the man enjoy his victory; history books are always being re-written, best not to pre-empt them.

If anyone thought that achieving a full set of Grand Slam titles, an Olympic Gold, and a Davis Cup win, would mean that Rafa kicked back his heels, lay on the coach and watching some telly as opposed to putting more hours on the court, then think again. Despite all of his achievements, Nadal is still concentrating on the next one; right now, it’s winning the ATP World Tour Finals which takes place in London this November. If Rafa can have that in mind after just winning one of the biggest tournaments in the year, then the others are going to have a particularly difficult task wrestling with him for the ATP World Tour Finals trophy. All the more excitement for us come November and the end of the tennis year.

- SophieG

Written by: SophieG

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