128 players started out on a quest to conquer the final and most glamorous Grand Slam in Tennis – The US Open. To nobody’s surprise, the no.1 and no.2 in the tennis world are the last men standing, promising us another long baseline battle to determine the King of Queens for the next 365 days. In a very intriguing and interesting way, they are both No.1s and they are both ranked no.2 as well. Djokovic is the no.1 on ATP rolling rankings and Rafa is the No.1 on the race to London.
Today’s battle can be viewed as the battle between the King of Hardcourts – Novak Djokovic, taking on a King returning from exile – Rafael Nadal. Nadal, the King of Clay, just about managed to defend his own throne on the red clay of Paris, a few moons ago. Having seen Novak concede some precious psychological advantage to Murray at Wimbledon, Rafa proceeded to push the daggers deeper into Nole’s mind and heart with a 3rd set tie-break win in Montreal. John Isner officially let the cat among the pigeons in Nole-nation when he defeated Novak in the Cinicnnati Quarter-finals. To his credit, Djokovic has dug deeper into his big heart and has started the process of freeing his mind and thereby his game.
I had the privilege of watching both the players during the Quarterfinals and based on what I say, one can safely say Djokovic is playing below the best he has displayed at NYC , while Nadal has probably never played better on the US hardcourts in his entire career. What does that mean? It means that Novak has to make sure he is on the money with the weapons that have earned him some precious real-estate in Rafa’s head. Those weapons would be his Return of Serve and his GOAT league Backhand. He will have to be hitting those shots with regularity and close to perfection. He has done that in all the matches he has played against Rafa. In the matches he has lost to Rafa in Paris and Montreal, Nole turned up 1 set too late to the match. In Monte Carlo, he turned up on time and he nearly bageled Rafa, on clay. If I were his coach, I would make sure Nole is completely awake before he walks onto the court. I have a funny feeling that he is going to be wide-awake when the clock strikes 5pm on Arthur Ashe today.
My dear Rafafans, I know you are wondering – Does Mr. Rod Federer even know that Rafa is playing today in this final? The answer is, most certainly yes! I did not think he was going to the final, but here he is one match from a 2nd US Open title. What should he do to make sure he doesn’t get robbed off this title like he had done to Novak at the French Open? He will have to keep serving like he has been. The last time he faced one of the Big 4 – in the Cinicnnati Quarterfinal, he was made to look like a novice for the best part of 2 sets by a man 5years his elder and whose career is in a serious slump. If he plays like that, Djokovic will finish this match in a hurry. To be honest, Djokovic’s best on a hardcourt will always trump Rafa’s best. Having said that, Djokovic has been under performing on the hardcourts since the Australian Open. Rafa fans will be hoping the under performance will continue.
Nole and his team realise this is a wonderful opportunity to payback to team Rafa for snatching the French Open away from them. They will leave no stone unturned to achieve that goal. There is a nice symmetry in King of Clay losing in Monte Carlo and then winning the next slam and the King of Hardcourts losing in Montreal and then winning the next slam. Does this Cosmos love symmetry? I know I do.
US Open 2013 Champion : Novak Djokovic – 7-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6.
Duration – 4hrs or less, please!