It was the longest final in Grand Slam history. For 5:53, both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic gave an epic battle, one of those everyone will remember for a long, long time. Of course, I could be funny and say that if you take out the incredibly long time both players take before serving, it would not have been that long (probably an hour less, maybe more). That would just be what it is: some funny fact.
After all, both players fought a real epic battle, where nothing was given to the opponent, where Nadal as well as Djokovic left it all on that court to win the first Grand Slam trophy of the season. A battle that, sadly, only one could win. For the seventh time in the last year, it is Novak Djokovic who took it, 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7(5) 7-5.
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Many positives for Nadal
What is to be remembered from this match? Further than the battle that was fought on court, the missed opportunity in the fifth set from Rafa Nadal, further than Djokovic tearing out his shirt out of pure joy after his win, further than the strokes and crazy points, it was how close yet how far Nadal still is from his new biggest rival.
How close, having overcome a two sets to one deficit, he came to victory. How far, having lost again. However, there were so many positives to take from this match that even though the loss must have somehow been a bit crushing for him, the Spaniard could not stop smiling after such an epic match, drawing out all the good sides of his win, both on court in the trophy ceremony and in his press conference.
First, Nadal played much, much more aggressive tennis. Obviously, that came with the price of many unforced errors. Facing a returner such as Djokovic, aggressive tennis is definitely one of the keys to winning that Rafa needs to exploit. However, Nadal still missed a little too much in key occasions, which might have made the difference. Then again, he was much, much closer than in New York and that’s a big plus.
As I mentioned, many positives from this match, even though Nadal became the first to lose three consecutive Grand Slam finals, and that he lost a seventh consecutive final to the same man. The Spaniard recognized it as well after the match:
“I wanted to win, but I am happy about how I did. I had my chances against the best player of the world today. I played one against one. For a long time I didn’t felt that I was playing in less advantage than him, you know.
I didn’t play at lower level than him for a long time, so that’s a very positive thing for me. I am very happy about my mentality tonight, the mentality worked like in my best moments.
So very happy about the beginning of the 2012 season. That’s all that I can say.“
“I played more aggressive. I played with more winners than ever. My serve worked well. The mentality and the passion was there another time better than probably never another time.
So that’s very positive aspects on whole game that I am very happy, no? So I just lost the final of a Grand Slam. I am not happy to lose the final, yes, but that’s one of the loses that I am more happy in my career.“
All in all, Nadal is closer than ever to finally getting a win over Djokovic. We know that he is a player of challenges and that there isn’t a challenge he hasn’t overcome, whether it is to finally win Wimbledon, or win the U.S. Open, for instance. He will do all he can and work harder and harder still in order to get to his goal. For those reasons, I think it’s only a matter of time until he finally gets the better of Djokovic in a final.
Will it be in the first Masters 1000 of the season? At Roland Garros, perhaps? We’ll see. But I think it will be sooner than a lot of us think.
Furthermore, as I’ve said on Twitter, we could see today how great a champion Rafael Nadal is. It’s not in the wins that you see a great champion, it’s in the defeats, and Rafa, today, showed how much of a champion he is. I don’t know many players who will take time to sign autographs after such a defeat, or have so much grace in his post-match speech and in his presser. A real champion.
The “Nole Slam”?
Yes, that’s the new talk. Novak Djokovic won today his third consecutive Grand Slam tournament and a win in Paris would make him hold the four Grand Slam titles at once, not in the same calendar year, but in the same year, something that neither Roger Federer (three times, calendar year) nor Rafael Nadal (once, consecutive but not calendar year) were able to accomplish.
Can he do it? Possibly. But first, he has yet to reach the final in Paris and that is no small feat. Roger Federer remains a tough customer, as he proved last year, and Andy Murray will continue improving under the coaching of Ivan Lendl, as he proved during this Australian Open.
This said, a lot of us (me included) didn’t think he could beat Nadal in Wimbledon, for instance, and yet he did. So it is nothing impossible. However, it will not be easy. Rafa remains the master of the Porte d’Auteuil, and as mentioned, there are Federer and Murray to consider, even though some of you might heartily disagree about the Murray part.
For now, nevertheless, it’s time to just congratulate Djokovic on this epic Melbourne win, a hard fought and deserved win, no matter which side of the fence we were on.