Tuesday, 24 November 2009

WTF: Armageddon and Sweaty Man-Hugs

(Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images)

Soderling d. Nadal 6-4, 6-4

Not quite the ‘End of Days’ struggle I had predicted.

Not even the one sided smackdown I was dreading for Rafa’s sake, either.

The truth, and I know many people saw it differently, is that Rafa fended off Big Rob’s larger-than-life, free-swinging savagery with a lot more belief and swagger than I had expected.

Robin had his wobbles, but was, for the most part, secure in the knowledge that his A-Game trumps Rafa’s high bouncing loopies nine times out of ten on a fast indoor court.

Somewhat relieved to learn that he left behind bleary-eyed ‘Bog Rob’ with his head slumped down on the table in some Parisian nightclub. He clearly relishes any opportunity to score a win over Rafa. How far will his form carry him this time?

Rafa will always be vulnerable to Big Rob’s groundies – it’s what makes tennis so interesting.


(Photo: AP)

That a guy, with perhaps the most unique game in the history of the sport, can be troubled by someone like Big Rob, and possess the tools to then go on and pick apart arguably the greatest player that ever lived, is one of the reasons I keep returning.

“My level right now I think is not to be No. 1,” Nadal said. “My level is to be still fighting and practicing hard to be ready as soon as possible to compete another time with equal conditions with everybody.”

(Source: ESPN)

Rafa is, as we all know, in something of a slumptuous lull; and it’s a little unreasonable to expect him to suddenly snap out of that on a fast , indoor court against arguably the flattest ball striker in the game.

Now about that handshake. Hatchets buried? No looking back? I think not.

Unlike the Murray-Delpo bust up, this “rivalry” is destined, I believe, to remain as contentious as ever.

Their meeting at the net was as cursory as it was back in Roland Garros – the only difference being that this time round, Rafa appeared ready for it, and responded in kind.

Not an entirely unhealthy state of affairs, it must be said. Not everyone is destined to get along.

Djokovic d. Davydenko 3-6, 6-4, 7-5

(Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images)

These guys clearly are in the business of getting along.

If only Rafa and the Sod could be made to see the benefits of engaging in a sweaty manly embrace once in a while, all their ill will and bad vibes could be put to bed….actually shall we not go there?

Not a lot I can say about the match will do it justice.

Clearly the match of the event so far, and one that will take some beating. What I will say, and to use Novak’s own words, is that Nik was the better player for the first two sets, only floundering away the second set on the back of a single break, a temporary dip in form carrying over into the early part of the final set.

He actually called the ATP doctor during the changeover, and appeared to be having problems breathing.

Whatever was troubling him, found it difficult to keep a good man down, and the good man rallied to ensure the deficit was kept to only a single break in the final set.


(Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images)

Perhaps bolstered by Nik’s early hiccup, Djokovic too, rallied in the final set, and seemed on course to eking out the win, until at 5-4 down, with Djoko serving for the match, Nik finally broke back, producing a blistering backhand winner, that along with an earlier running forehand pass, will surely go down as one of the shots of the tournament.

As is so often the case in such instances however, the glory was short lived, and Nik ended up handing the break straight back with a scandalous service game in which he was clearly a spent force.

Full credit to Djoko for weathering the storm of the first two sets. There’s not very many players that come out on top against Slick Nik when he’s playing as well as this; something Djoko is only too well aware of from that recent loss he suffered against him back in Shanghai.

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