On 1st February 2009, Roger Federer broke into tears at the Australian Open presentation. The words that he uttered before breaking down were ‘God, it’s killing me’. There was a reason behind that. Though Federer will not reveal it, it was pretty clear. 2008 was a year that Federer couldn’t put it through Nadal


He lost the French Open final (expectedly) and then was at the receiving end at Wimbledon, which was later hailed as the ‘Greatest match ever played’ . All this came to a conclusion at the Australian Open final, where for most part of the match, Federer had played the better tennis and even won more points than Nadal


This season, Nadal went through a similar run. He entered into 6 finals against Djokovic and lost in each one of them. It is not a co-incidence that Djokovic is having a dream run. In doing that, Djokovic has spread his wins over Nadal on all the surfaces- hard, clay, and grass


After he lost to him at the Wimbledon, Nadal acknowledged that Djokovic has gotten into his mind and he would need to play on a higher scale to put it across him. He did get the opportunity at Flushing Meadows but could not quite get there


When Nadal blazed away to a 2-0 lead in the opening set, it was thought that Nadal finally found a way to put it across Djokovic. However Djokovic was back to his imperious best as he reeled off six games in a row


The second set too followed a similar script as Nadal burst away to 2-0 lead, only to see Djokovic raise his own game and take the second set. He was in the danger of getting a drubbing similar to the one, that he gave Federer in the 2008 French Open


In the third set, Nadal was a break down early and in the latter half of the set, he got the forehand going. He was also having the long rallies in the match, go his way. After he won the third set, it was expected that he would exhaust Djokovic and take the match into the fifth set


Though Djokovic had problems with his lower back on the left side, he played a destructive game as Nadal was a mute spectator to the cascade of the shots from his racket. Djokovic not only won the final but also put it across Nadal tactically


There were two strokes that worked like a dream for Djokovic- the groundstrokes and the inside-out double handed backhand. His return of service was as exceptional as Nadal’s serve was poor. Nadal clocked early 100’s on his first serves. Djokovic feasted on these as he sent the returns rocketing back to Nadal at half volley length’s at the baseline


Nadal is normally quick to pounce on any sign of fallibility but here he could not capitalise on the number of unforced error’s committed by Djokovic in the second set. Djokovic, in fact did not play a perfect match but then he made sure that Nadal couldn’t rip that forehand of his


When Nadal wanted to get the wide serve going, it invariably found the net and his forehands, more often than not bounced long. In the third set, he tried to change the strategy a bit as he didn’t toss the ball as much. This was because he wanted to reduce the reaction time of Djokovic and he succeeded to an extent as he was able to hold his serve at crucial junctures of the third set


By the time the fourth set arrived, it clearly looked like Nadal ran out of steam. He wasn’t willing enough to chase down the balls and literally, he was running on empty


If the same trend continues then it isn’t far away from Nadal’s version of 2009 Australian Open final. This rivalry is a mouth watering prospect for the next season

1 comment

  1. It’s high time Rafa works on his serve, which has been a dent to his play. I am sure he will bounce back. If Nole can maintain this form, which i seriously doubt, we are in for a treat of sublime tennis in the season to come.

    Nice article Raghav!


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