Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic - US Open Final Review
I've been a little busy lately with work, online classes, and creating a fantasy football league for me and my buddies at work on NFL.com only to realize why no one does fantasy football on NFL.com (I'll give you a hint... their projections were horrendous and the draft page was pretty complicated just ask my friend Nick who didn't know his entire team has the same two bye weeks until after the draft was over). So I had to switch the league over to ESPN.com, add all the players onto every team, and get all the league members to join and make roster moves in a day and a half thanks to the NFL wanting to start the season on a Thursday night. So I haven't really been watching a ton of the U.S. Open, hence no posts from me in the past week and a half. But today there's no football (yet), there's no work for me, and there's no way I'm not watching the men's final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. I thought I would give some running commentary during the final just for fun, knowing that I won't post this until after the match is over.
Pre-Match Thoughts: I'm pulling for Djokovic all the way but even I don't see how Nadal doesn't win this match. He's had a much easier trip to the finals, dominating all six of his opponents, while Djokovic had a five-set classic against Stan Wawrinka in the semis. My prediction: Nadal in 4 sets and probably around 3.5 to 4 hours.
Djokovic leads 1-0, first set: Both players come out really sharp, which is a pleasant departure from Novak's sluggish first set in the semis. A couple interesting comments early: John McEnroe said that this is a huge match for our sport, as it will determine who the best player in the sport really is. Tennis.com notes that in one game you can see that Djokovic is capable of moving Nadal around better than anyone else he has faced in the tournament.
Nadal holds, 1-1: The wind is kicking up a bit which was definitely a factor in the women's final on Sunday. I wonder how Nadal's throat is going to feel after grunting on every shot for the next 3 to 4 hours or more. If I had to rank the outfits today I'd go Jake Garner (the chair umpire) first with the nice Ralph Lauren navy sweater over a white button-down and red white and blue striped tie - real classy look - followed by Djokovic's red and black outfit second and whatever color blue Nadal is wearing with black socks and black shoes a distant third. Spoiler alert - more fashion critiques to come later this week!
Nadal gets the first break, up 2-1: It took me three games to realize I don't type well enough to be able to watch and type at the same time. This running commentary might end soon.
Nadal breaks again, up 5-2: Yikes this may not last too long. Does one of these guys have some Eagles or Redskins players on their fantasy teams? Nadal looks unstoppable right now, chasing down every ball and hitting deep, angled shots that are forcing errors from Djokovic. Novak looks shell-shocked as if he hasn't figured out how to crack Nadal or even win points. Nadal is forcing the number one player to go for too much on his shots because if he doesn't Nadal makes him pay. Can I change my prediction to Nadal in straight sets? Nadal wins set one 6-2.
Nadal holds, 1-1, second set: Just when it looked like Djokovic had turned it around by holding his serve the first game and garnering two break points at 15-40 on Nadal's serve, he went right back to looking sluggish and making unforced errors. Not sure if it's the wind or the fact that he played over four hours on Saturday but he needs to pick his level of play up significantly to compete with Nadal tonight.
Djokovic holds, 2-1: Signs of life from the top seed. He's grunting, he seems more involved, he's winning a couple of the longer points, and he's fist-pumping. Yet he's still barely winning points because Nadal is still playing out of his mind. Did I mention the black socks with the red shoes on Djokovic? He might overtake the chair umpire for best outfit by the end of this blog.
Side note: Am I the only one who sees the youth tennis commercials and wishes that existed when I was a little kid instead of learning how to play with my dad's metal racket that weighed a ton and probably caused my shoulder injuries years later? It is so cool to watch the little kids at the local tennis club take lessons with the bigger tennis balls and the smaller courts. Plus you can hit the daylights out of the bigger balls because they have less air in them and they go nowhere. I just read that they are planning on having all beginners start playing with the bigger tennis balls since they are easier to use when learning how to play. I might have to take a beginner lesson just for fun.
Djokovic breaks to lead 4-2: Djokovic finally converts a break point to take the lead. That wasn't just any point he won, it was the longest point ever (well probably not but it sure seemed like it). 54 shots. Over 400 feet covered by each player. A standing ovation for both players. Djokovic raising his arms in the air. Me clapping from my apartment as if they could hear me. Twitter going nuts (well as nuts as it does for a tennis match being played on a Monday night). Really amazing stuff. Then Nadal breaks right back to go back on serve. Rafa is relentless. And Novak is throwing his racket. And cursing in his towel in whatever language Serbians speak. Sorry that country didn't exist when I went to high school. And I'm too lazy to look it up on Wikipedia.
Side note 2: I'm down 38.4 points (yes we use decimal points) in my fantasy league and I have both running backs going in game 1 tonight. Just mentioning this in case I curse out a player, make a football reference, or miss a set because LeSean McCoy or Alfred Morris are going bonkers.
Djokovic breaks again, 5-3: Another long rally, another break for Djokovic, another fist pump and another standing ovation. It looked to me as if Nadal wanted to end that long rally earlier than Djokovic when he hit an awful drop shot on his last shot. Djokovic didn't play the best of games to follow up his break but he does hold and takes the second set 6-3. I'm ready to go back to original prediction number one.
Djokovic breaks to start the third set, 1-0: If Djokovic has any chance at winning this match he has to win the third set. I can't see him going down two sets to one against Nadal and winning. Nadal's level didn't drop off that much in set 2, so to think Djokovic will be able to sustain the level of play he did in the second set is asking a lot. Nadal is moving so well that Djokovic had to hit multiple winners just to end points, and to think under these circumstances (pressure, wind, changing from day into night) that Djokovic could do this for another three sets is asking a lot. I'll admit when Djokovic got up 2-0 to start the third I thought he could take this match.
Nadal wins third set, 6-4: Once the football game and Monday Night Raw started I checked out of the tennis match. Didn't help that my sister came over either. From what I saw it looked like Djokovic's level dipped a bit, probably from a combination of Nadal's pressure and fatigue. Once he lost his serve at 5-4 giving Nadal a chance to serve for the set, you could see the anguish and frustration creeping back in his face and his body language. He looked like he did in the first set and parts of the second set. It has to be maddening to play pretty well for so long only to be down two sets to one. It doesn't help that Nadal doesn't look tired at all.
Nadal wins the fourth set and the match 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1: You could tell as soon as the fourth set started that this match was over. Djokovic's errors became more numerous than in the first set, and Nadal continued to play tremendous tennis. Both Mary Carillo and John McEnroe commented numerous times that some of Nadal's shots didn't exist 20 years ago, thanks to the technology in tennis rackets and the extreme grips players like Nadal have. The angles he creates don't exist in most people's minds. This is his 13th Grand Slam title and he has to enter the conversation as one of the greatest players of all time. To think one year ago he was did not play the U.S. Open (or Wimbledon) with a knee injury that many thought would limit if he would be able to get back to the top of the game ever again. With this win he is clearly the best player in 2013 and will probably overtake Novak Djokovic at the top of the tour rankings before the year is over. With Murray looking like he is having a post-Wimbledon hangover, Federer looking like age is finally catching up to him, and Berdych and del Potro not performing consistently enough in the majors, Nadal could conceivably end up with more major titles than anyone else (he's four behind Federer's 17 Grand Slam titles). You would think with all these titles and all the money he's made over the years Nadal could get a better outfit to wear. That blue/gray/slate number he had on today didn't do it for me or my sister, and she thinks Nadal is beautiful (she has odd taste in athletes - Nadal, Milan Lucic, and the strangest one of all, Peyton Manning. Yuck.).