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RG Day Fifteen: Now With Words

Posted by gauloises1 on June 8, 2010

Not good words, though. So first allow me to distract you with the coolest photo I may have ever seen.

Gladiator.

OK, so. I’ve been putting off blogging about this, not because I’m not happy about it, but because I’m not really sure what I can say about it, apart from ‘wow’. (Although I recommend everyone reads C Note’s fantastic post on Rafa’s mentality, if you haven’t already.) In the nicest possible way, the final felt like going back in time, in that I didn’t really learn anything from it that I didn’t already know. To wit …

… Rafa is awesome. He is. He was. Ruthless in defense, relentless in his pursuit of every single ball and every single point, and able to bring again that twist of wonder (slightly sick wonder, if you’re rooting for the other guy) at doing things not just that no-one else can do, but that it seems no-one should be able to do. If you want that slightly more technically, you’re on the wrong blog I was particularly impressed with the consistent depth he got on his shots and how well he served, two elements that were missing last time he played Soderling at Roland Garros. And if you want it in numbers … well, it’s his fifth Roland Garros title; he got the Clay Slam (it’s a thing); he won twenty-two straight matches; and he dropped just two sets doing it (neither in Paris). I mean, what can you say about that? Apart from ‘please can you donate some of your sperm to British tennis’? I know some ladies who will volunteer to, er, take care of the logistics.

Love the look on the ballgirl’s face.

… Rafa likes winning. I amused myself throughout the third set by wondering whether he’d cry. He did. And if you saw his celebrations, it was impossible not to get some sense of just how much it meant to him. It can be a little mystifying, but it’s never less than moving. And it’s not about the numbers or the ranking; it’s just about being there, playing his tennis, and winning. It’s as pure and impenetrable as that.

Q. When you won, did you feel that this was a triumph of all the hardships that you’ve experienced over this past year?
RAFAEL NADAL: The feeling is when you win you know how many hours you had on court, how many hours you was thinking and working to play your best tennis, how much time you wait to win another time a title.
For me was 11 months without win a title, so a lot of tournaments going back to home without a victory. A lot of moments, difficult moments, because in a few of these tournaments I had to retired for the problems.
So is difficult moments to accept I say before, and this, sure, it’s very important for me. It was personal goal to be back at my best. So I did.
And for me, sure, the important thing is Roland Garros. But for me the biggest thing is the personal satisfaction to be here, to be here another time and to be at the top level.

And he really means it.

… Winning Slams is really, really hard. And no, this didn’t just dawn on me, but it did grow out of the similarities I saw on Sunday to Murray’s performance against Federer in Melbourne, and Stosur’s performance against Schiavone on Saturday. In all three cases, the losing player had been to some extent the player of the tournament, providing the upsets, the drama, the out-of-this-world performances. Robin’s tennis against Marin and against Federer reached a level for me, like Sam against Justine and JJ, that their opponent had not matched throughout. And yet it gets to the final, and that tennis simply isn’t there.

For the record, I don’t think Robin played a bad match at all. He wasn’t superlative, but honestly I think that was Rafa as much as anything else. Rafa played so well and gave Robin so few opportunities that when Robin did work himself into a position that he had the point on his racquet, he overpressed and missed. And while Robin is perfectly capable of overcoming that – we’ve seen him do it – on the day, in the moment, for the final, he just didn’t have it.

And then this happens.

The situation is of course exacerbated when you have two players at the top of the rankings who are so consistently and phenomenally capable of bringing it on the big occasion, which really underlines how incredibly bloody difficult it is to beat Federer and Nadal in the same Slam (raise your hand, Delpo – the left one, please. And carefully.) Honestly, what kind of absurd heights is someone going to have to reach in order to beat Nadal in a final at Roland Garros? Are we ever going to see it? Answers on a postcard.

… Robin is adorable. In case this message hasn’t filtered through. He is as nice, as sweet and as gracious as you could ask for. So there.

But like I say … I already knew all of the above. I really did. There may have been some ridiculous premature burial of Rafa by elements of the media and the fandom over the past twelve months, but I believed that it would be revealed to be totally myopic once Rafa got his feet (and functioning knees) back on clay, and so it has proved. I know that often being a fan leads more readily to despair, whether because you care more or because it’s an effective method of insulating yourself. But did anyone really believe that we wouldn’t see this again?

I’m really asking. Now that the dust has somewhat settled, what did you make of the final? Deja vu all over again, or did you find this triumphant reprise of familiar themes satisfying? To quote Daniel Bedingfield … I wanna know.

7 Responses to “RG Day Fifteen: Now With Words”

  1. naughty T...urbane gentleman said

    she’s a bit old to be a ball girl don’t you think??… but bless her for getting out and doing something useful and keeping herself active.

  2. Ben said

    Great post, I like your style of writing!

  3. AmyLu said

    Not going to lie, I was rather worried about Rafa on clay this year — just because he seemed to be showing less “colm” than usual in key moments (and that continued in the clay season, I think — i.e. the end of the third set against Melzer). Once he won Monte Carlo, the only thing I truly wanted was this title for him because I knew how much it meant to him to win it again. I think the aspect I was most impressed with throughout the tournament was how Rafa seemed the most relaxed once he reached the final — and with that relaxation, he played his most composed, complete match of the tournament. I wasn’t expecting that at all. I thought he could win, of course, but I was expecting more hiccups in the final from him — the only one that comes to mind was his bizarre decision to stop playing at the beginning of the first set, after hitting a deep return off a Soderling serve that seemed to set him up perfectly for a rally.

    In many respects, his form in this year’s tournament reminded me of 2006 (that was the year, by the way, in which I think he was the least impressive looking on clay — I know he didn’t lose a match that season, but in terms of his own play, I think those matches were much more of a grind than in other seasons. He’d said that’s the year he felt the most pressure — he felt the need to validate what he’d done the year before, but once he’d gotten through 2006, he knew he could do it again). I think he felt that same sense of pressure this year, to prove to himself that he could win the tournament again. I know he didn’t drop a set, but I didn’t see a full flight Rafa for much of the tournament. While I, of course, loved the form Rafa displayed in 2008 when he romped through the tournament, in many ways I find this type of play more gratifying and rewarding, as it gives greater evidence to the heart, strength, will, and determination needed to win a grand slam.

  4. Jess said

    First, I was rooting for Sod and more confident of his chance listening to Rafa’s interview at the end of Melzer’s match. Rafa was scared of meeting Sod in the final (like – it showed – not just one of his humble interviews).

    Rafa brought his best to the final (he wasn’t this good in other matches) while Sod was good but not best as we can see from the result.

    I’m looking forward to this match-up again on RG in particular.

  5. harini said

    I liked Rafa’s chances of winning coming in to the final but I didn’t discount that just *maybe* Robin may beat Rafa too. Just maybe. Of course, once the match actually started, I piled all my coins in Rafa’s favour. Robin did play well and it was a good match, but he was outplayed.

    And Robin is adorable 🙂

    Rafa! I didn’t watch all his matches this RG, but he definitely did play his best in the final. I didn’t see that in the first few rounds.

    Great write-up G! I was wondering when the posts about the finals would go up 🙂

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