Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Novak Djokovic Luck running out?

Novak Djokovic © Gallo Images

This match will be labelled some kind of classic, but in fact it was anything but. Far more noteworthy for the stakes than the performances, the drama lay only in a combination of extreme nerves from Nadal and the rain-affected conditions, in particular last night.

It opened in fairly predictable circumstances and Nadal sprinted to 3-0, 30-0 only to exhibit the tension that he normally masks. Djokovic also showed us the shape of things to come by giving up two breaks of serve on double faults. The Djokovic serve was abysmal, with under half 1st serves finding their mark. And so the match progressed fairly steadily to 6-4, 5-3 - despite turgid conditions - until the rain forced the players from the court.

On resumption Nadal secured that set and ran into a 2-0 lead only for heavy rain to come down. The effect on Nadal was astonishing; his shots lost their pace and kick, his movement deteriorated and he became weaponless. Djokovic sensed the kind of break he got at USO '11 when his desperate slap shot on match point surprised him by landing in, and he capitalised in the same way, playing tidy, controlled tennis against the hapless Nadal as eight games routinely came his way. Eventually good sense prevailed over the desire to keep the show on the and the match was suspended. That was the moment the final was decided; as predicted by many experienced posters there was to be no serious contest once the conditions became playable.

On resumption Djokovic showed what a factor the rain had been by being broken immediately, but he creditably played his best tennis of the match to hold on to 5-6, unable as he was though to make the slightest impression on the Nadal serve.

And so to the final game, and Djokovic reprised his nervous show earlier by cracking on the first break point, handing over the match with a fearful push of a 2nd serve. In truth Nadal probably appreciated it as his nerves were somewhat shredded.

So what do we learn from this? Quite lot really;

Nadal is still the man on clay, though perhaps we have seen more vulnerability than before. He was nervous long before the rain (choking up the early 3-0 lead).

Djokovic fell sadly short on his big day, and in reality needed a downpour to give the scoreline a respectable look. In hot conditions this would have been a schooling. The double faults on THREE break points brought back memories of the "Chokovic" tag he earned after losing the USO 2007 first set to Federer. He will win more Slams, as Federer has declined, Nadal perhaps leaning that way and no competition in sight, but the myth of INAT has been laid bare.

It wouldn't be a bogbrush article without a mention of Federer! The old guy looked his years in labouring through this event but his two runs in the past (three, if you count the USO 2009 loss as also stopping him) at the Grand Slam will be revised upward, having taken sets off Nadal in his final attempts in prime clay conditions. He will also feel that the #1 slot is still there to take - he's survived his worst phase of the year, passed the highest points to defend and will fancy his chances of pipping Djokovic.

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