Sunday, June 8, 2014


Both men today are fighting for the number 1 spot in the world, this French Open is so much more than a tennis match! The commentators today likened this open to a boxing match, and after some thought, I totally agree.

In the one corner you have reigning champion Rafael "Rafa" Nadal, currently number 1 in the world, who at the open of this match has won 8 French Opens, 4 consecutively. Wow, what a winner!

In the other corner, we have champion Novak Djokovic, number 2 in the world, who has yet to win this Grand Slam and is quite hungry to add this trophy to his arsenal.

So, how to begin?  Men's finals go on for so much longer than the women's finals, so I will defer to a general review of the match in place of my usual play by play account.

SET 1, 9:20 - 10:00AM, 40 minutes

As usual, the opening set is played on serve, Djokovic opens, breaks Nadal once, takes the first set at 6-3.  Ho hum, aside from some long rallies and great shots by both players, we all know this match will be a long day at the office for both players. Djokovic leads the first set at 6-3.

SET 2, 10:10- 11:02AM, 52 minutes

Djokovic's game begins to break down, although he started the match as the aggressor, winning a 21 shot back and forth rally in set 1. Nadal opens the set, midway he breaks, but then Djokovic breaks back, and the set is back on serve for Nadal to take set 2 at 7-5.  Just looking at the score activity here, it shows a few things.  One, is that a great player can be broken, then can be great again and break back. There is ebb and flow in a match, and at this point the score is too close to call as both players are simply just too good. Also, there are outside distractions that can throw off the best of players.  Djokovic is distracted by a baby crying (recall his fiance is expecting) and double faults at 15-15, then loses the next 3 points and Nadal takes the set.

The match started at 9:17 AM EST, and is now 11:02.  An hour and a half for 2 sets.  Tennis singles goes on for a long time, be prepared, tennis players! Patience is the word for the day here. 

SET 3, 11:12-11:50AM, 38 minutes

Nadal opens, holds, breaks and holds for a 3-0 lead. This all happened in 15 minutes.  Play those rallies, because each ball is a bit different, a long rally once does not portend more long rallies! Here there is a 22 ball rally, favor to Nadal. Finally Djokovic holds serve, but Nadal also does and leads at 4-1.  The Paris heat is oppressive, and getting to Djokovic.  Not a good sign.  Nadal holds easily again, leads at 5-2, then breaks Djokovic to take the third set at 6-2. Ouch!

Recall that tennis is played in sets, it favors the player who may need a new outlook, a refresh so to speak, as a second chance to get in the game and play.  Will this happen here as last year in the semi between Djokovic and Nadal?  In terms of play and technique, besides teh long rallies at times (but not always), there were some creative exchanges at net with drop shots and volleys. The crowd wants more play, these players are not at the top of either one of their games, yesterday's women's final was much more dramatic with its twists and turns. Set to Nadal 6-2.

SET 4, 12:00 -12:50PM, 50 minutes

What will happen? Nadal opens and both players are on serve.  Djokovic is clearly uncomfortable, gets sick at a changeover, the heat is getting to him, and his eyes appear foggy and distant.  he is a champion and trying to shake it off, and to his advantage the sun is masked by cloud cover, and he recovers in turn.  As that happens, Nadal is exhibiting back pain for a few games, and for a few instances we spectators are braced and happy for a fifth set! Midway in the set, Nadal breaks, but Djokovic breaks back and trails at 4-3. This is where the action is in this set. Nadal recovers for the moment, for which we are glad, holds at 5-4 now,and Djokovic is better now, too, but in a pretty much uneventful final set, Djokovic actually double faults and breaks, with championship point to Nadal! 

3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4, Nadal.

What a twisted match, I think we are all in disbelief it is over, Djokovic and Nadal included!  Djokovic smiles and holds back tears as the crowd cheers for him.  He is such a great guy.

And Nadal? He has now won 9 French Opens!!!!!!!!! And 14 Grand Slams!!!!!!!!!!!!!! On par with tennis great Pete Sampras.

Nadal has tweeted #DREAMIN9

photo courtesy AFP
Click the photo for a slideshow!

Congratulations, Rafa Nadal!

                And Novak Djokovic, you are fabulous, we look to you at Wimbledon!

photo courtesy Associated Press
Click the photo for a slideshow on Djokovic's official website!

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