September 13th, 2011

Charah coffee

US Open 2011 final.

After seeing Novak Djokovic's near-complete demolition of Rafael Nadal today, I'm very very very very very proud of Roger for being the only man to defeat the Mighty Serb in a grand slam this year, and to have come so excruciatingly close to beating him again in the semi-final of the US Open.

There's really no one out there who can compete with Nole except Roger, an old man at 30 years of age. Nadal simply didn't have the weapons to hurt Nole, and now I believe Nole's firmly in his head, the way Nadal has been in Roger's head for the past few years. It makes for a pretty interesting dynamic at the top: Roger loses to Nadal who loses to Djokovic who loses to Roger (if Roger doesn't brainfart, that is) who loses to Nadal who loses to Djokovic who loses to Roger...

Roger's semi-final victory over Nole at the French earlier this year might have single-handedly prevented Nole from completing the calendar grand slam, the Holy Grail in tennis that Roger failed to achieve twice (both times losing the French to Nadal and winning the remaining slams), a feat that was last achieved by Rod Laver in 1969. I would readily give Nadal another slam victory than to have Djokovic accomplish the Grand Slam - this guy can't bloody get it if Roger's never done it before, thank you very much.

In fact, now that Nole has 10 titles, it's time for him to stop winning. I'd like him not to eclipse Roger's best season of 12 titles win, thank you.

As for the match itself, I went back to bed in the middle of the third set, got up to watch it again as Nole served for the match at 6-5 and got broken, and went back to bed again after Nole lost the tie-break. I just can't sit through this kind of tennis over the course of five sets. It's so physical, so gruelling, so punishing; I feel tired just watching them kill themselves trying to blast the other guy off the court. Nole's shots were on fire for the first two sets, but it was clear that he was getting tired from the third set onwards. He reverted to being content just blasting Nadal's weaker backhand side to draw the error - that made for very boring tennis. Of course, there were a lot of intense rallies with incredible gets by both guys - Djokovic can make a career out of retrieving shots that would have been clean put-aways against any other player, and Nadal has made a career out of doing the same.

But seriously, 3 hours of such punishing tennis isn't what I would call worthy of sleep deprivation. After two sets, I was tired of watching. It's mentally exhausting. I was tired watching Nadal struggle so hard to hold serve, playing 15-minute service games, mostly just to be broken at the end of them. I hardly delighted in this defeat, actually; it was such a complete beat-down that I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. Nadal got some of his mojo back in the third set, but for whatever reason, he got completely outplayed in the last set, losing it 6-1.

I can't even begin to imagine what Roger would've done with this final if he'd converted those matchpoints against Djokovic. Nadal shockingly served like a woman - no, wait, he served worse than a woman. Even Sam Stosur served better than him. He was barely spinning his serve into the service box, eliciting a huge return from the Djokovic racquet. It's a testament to how mentally frail he is against Djokovic nowadays that when he's facing a pressure point and he misses his first serve, I immediately wonder if he's going to double fault. Even if he doesn't, he throws in a pussy second serve that Djokovic punishes immediately.

If Roger had a more naturally aggressive return, there's quite simply no way that he would lose to a Nadal with next-to-no serve. He'd eat up his serves for breakfast. I mean, Roger's working on being more aggressive on his returns, but 1) he doesn't always make them; and 2) it's SO OBVIOUS that his return of choice is the sliced return to get the rally going. He's fallen numerous times by that sword and I cursed and swore at that return many times last year, imploring him to just be a tad more aggressive when he gets a second serve. I've definitely seen some marked improvement in this department; but if there's something that Novak Djokovic currently does better than Roger Federer, it's definitely the return of serve. Nole's the best returner on tour right now, and Nadal definitely felt the burn numerous times throughout the final.

If it had been Roger/Nadal...sigh. I think Roger would've had a good chance of winning it. He'd be able to get free points on his serve. He'd be able to punish some of Nadal's moonballs and hit winners off Nadal's shorter balls. Djokovic is at least as good a defender as Nadal is, perhaps even better; if Roger took two sets off Djokovic, who has a better serve than Nadal, I DON'T SEE HOW HE COULD HAVE LOST TO NADAL UNLESS HE SHOWS UP WITH NO SERVE AND NO FOREHAND.

LE SIGH. I guess the only consolation is that...he might have still lost to Nadal anyway. At least Nadal didn't get his 11th slam I guess. But Nadal's stuck up for Roger recently (regarding Djokovic's lucky shot on matchpoint) which has endeared him to me maybe 0.5%, so I'm not even that happy about him not getting his 11th.

And while I generally like Novak, some of his antics are seriously irritating. He was irritated by the crowd because they cheered for his opponents, i.e. Roger and Nadal. I can understand getting pissed off with some idiot shouting out random nonsense in a middle of a rally and getting distracted; but getting agitated because the crowd is not pulling for you? Dude, seriously, both Federer and Nadal are legendary; your road to legendary status has only just begun. No one's going to pull for you if you keep acting like this. Do you see Nadal getting upset at the French crowd whenever they cheer harder for Roger than they do for him, which is 99% of the time? Sure, it sucks to have the crowd cheer your first serve faults and errors, and if it were up to me I'd ban these idiots from tennis tournaments forever; but it's part of the game. Just get on with it and don't whine about it.

Anyway, I'm all tennis-ed out for now. That said, I'm definitely watching the Davis Cup semi-final tie between Spain and France this weekend. It's hard to say who I want to win...on the one hand, France > Spain. On the other hand, I fucking hate the French crowd.

Oh wait, the tie will be played in Spain. That decides it then: gonna pull for the Frenchies.

Roger's gonna play in Australia too. Er, I hope Switzerland wins; it'll be good for his morale. Unfortunately the Swiss #2 sucks on grass and is apparently injured, so Roger's gonna have to do all the work, as usual. Oh well. If anyone can do it, it's Roger Federer.