We have been spoilt as tennis fans in the past few decades. Starting with the Federer-Roddick-Safin-Hewitt match-ups and then arguably the greatest rivalry in Tennis – FEDAL and now a glorious successor to FEDAL – NADKOVIC! They will be meeting in a final for the 19th time which equals FEDAL. Djokovic and Nadal have split their meetings 9-9 and this match will be a tie-breaker in that sense. The bigger perspective will be the tone that this match will set for the 2014 Tennis season. If you disagree on the significance this might have on the upcoming season, may I suggest the 2011 Year End which Roger Federer used as a spring board for success in 2012.
The biggest dynamic that will decide this match will be how Novak Djokovic will address the issue of “waking up early” – something I had addressed in my preview of their last big match clash at the US Open 2013. [No offence, my Chinese friends]. In many senses this year has been the year of 2 Novaks. One Novak who comes to the court ready to go and puts a whipping so bad that the opponent surrenders in straight sets. [Eg: Monte Carlo Final 2013 and Beijing 2013 Final]. The other Novak, let us call him NOTvak, comes to the court half-asleep and takes a set or sometimes 2 or doesn’t wake up at all. [Half-Asleep = US Open 2013 final and FO 2013 semi-final, Montreal 2013, semi-final. Completely dozed off at 2013 Wimbledon Final].
The biggest dynamic from Nadal nation’s perspective will be how battle-tested Rafael Nadal is. I know he is one of the ultimate warriors if not THE warrior our sport has seen, but even he can be under-cooked for a big match and the easy draw and Federer’s inability to consistently bring the goods during the big points yesterday means he will be coming into this match without being pushed enough in critical points of a match. This is however a good problem to have, since it means Nadal has been very good at taking care of business. His team and Rafa planet will be hoping he will continue to take care of business for one more match.
What does this clash mean for 2014 you may ask and to me there could be one or more fall-outs of this match. In the very short term, it gives 500 points to the winner and that would mean an extra week or two at No.1 ranking. The weeks at No.1 ranking race between these two legends of our game is as close as their matches always have been and every week will matter as these two build their already Hall of Fame Legacy with rapid strides. The other fall-out, which could be very important in this rivalry is Djokovic gaining some much needed momentum to turn this rivalry into one-way traffic like he did in 2011. Prior to 2011, Djokovic had never beat Nadal in a Grand Slam match or a final. Djokovic turned that around spectacularly in the Indian Wells Final in 2011. I suspect a win here could set the tone for another Godkovic Year as Novak fans call it. [2011 as the rest of the tennis fans call it].
Now to the all important prediction. I had predicted a NADKOVIC final pre-tournament and called for a Djokovic win in a 3rd set tie-break. I will go ahead and stick to my policy of not wavering from pre-tournament picks. [Worked well for me for Beijing, Shanghai and Basel. Not so good for Paris. But why fix something that aint broke, eh?]. Given these guys’ penchants for long matches, we might just see my prediction come true. It definitely did in my Montreal semi-final preview! If nothing, I am sure we all agree these guys will serve us up [or should I return us up as both these guys are more about the return than the serve!] with a classic match to round off a tennis season that has been nothing but classic for the Tennis Galaxy!
Prediction: Djokovic to win in 3 sets. 6-4, 6-7 and 7-6. Match Duration: Upwards of 150minutes. #BringItOn!