(FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Davydenko d. Djokovic 4-6 6-4 7-6
Nothing much you can do.
I have to admit I’d only been keeping a half open eye on Nikolay’s fortunes this week, expecting another valiant but ultimately, ill fated effort. On the evidence of this performance however, this is beginning to shape up like Miami last year, when after a similar spell out in the cold, Niki peaked, laying waste to A-Rod and Rafa en route to his second career Masters title. In the final of which Nadal looked as equally devoid of any answers, as Novak did in that final set tie break today.
The truth is, Niki only knows one (very effective) mode of play, and there’s very little anyone can do (except, you know, that Swiss bloke) when he reaches these heights; you might, however, have expected Novak to fare just a little better given their very similar style of play.
But Novak, has been in something of a transition this year. That’s me being generous. I’ve described his play as exhibiting more grind than should come naturally to him, and recently he’s even been given over to some unbecoming episodes of ‘lurking’. Behind the baseline that is.
You all know who the traditional ‘lurkers' are: Gael, Reeshard, Nadal even. But last time I checked, Novak wasn’t one of them.
Seeing him behind the baseline is a bit like watching Dementieva serving aces on her 2nd serve. Oh wait, it's been that sort of year.
I guess he’s been trying to forge together a more well-rounded tennis product, which is a lofty aim, and deserving of some success. But it’s success which can’t come too soon IMO.
All this uncertainty about his game makes him uniquely vulnerable to someone like Nik, who doesn’t need to think twice about how exactly to best use the sharpest (and only) tool in his box.
That’s not to say Novak didn’t try however; the quality of this match (and that final set tie break in particular) makes up very nicely for my being denied a Rafa-Soderling match up for the second time in two weeks. Yeah, I’m not about to forget that in a hurry – especially now that Nik has just usurped Big Rob’s place in the Race to London, leaving Nando of all people in the eighth position.
“I’m in a final and that’s very important,” Nadal said. “It’s my first final since I’ve been back and that’s a good result for me.”
I’m thinking that with it being Nadal’s first final since his return, and with Nik playing as well as he so evidently is, this might be as good as it gets for Rafa.
Having only played two complete matches this week can’t have been of much help either (Ljubicic and Lopez today brought the men’s infirmary-count to nine).
Maybe we should pass on yelling out ‘Break a leg boys’, this week?