Watching Rafael Nadal celebrate his victory at the French Open finals, it was hard to figure out if Nadal was celebrating winning a record seventh French Open title or the fact that he finally beat Novak Djokovic in a Grand Slam final. It was probably both reasons, and Nadal certainly earned that prolonged family celebration after he climbed into the stands (a display that I can't remember seeing from Nadal since he won Wimbledon for the first time) following championship point.
Winning a seventh French Open title, for fans at least, was a no-brainer. Nadal is the greatest clay court player who has ever lived, and he will (barring injury) win several more before he finally retires. Indeed his pursuit of Roger Federer's record 16 Grand Slam titles hinge greatly on the number of French Opens he can acquire.
However, winning against his biggest rival was something extra-special. Nadal's great relief no doubt was a direct reflection of just how much Djokovic had gotten into his head. Remember, when Djokovic went on his remarkable 41-match winning streak at the beginning of the 2011 season, Nadal was coming off his own remarkable 2010 season in which he won three Grand Slams. Nadal's 2010 season was one of the greatest of all time, but Djokovic surpassed it the following year.
Djokovic repeatedly took from Nadal in 2011. He bested him (usually in straight sets) in four separate Masters 1000 tournament finals. At Wimbledon, he seemed to be inside Nadal's head as the Spaniard seemed to fall apart when the pressure reached its zenith. Even at the U.S. Open Djokovic seemed to know that he was going to beat Nadal no matter how bad things looked. Nadal seemed to know that, too, and frequently began to play worse as the Serbian played better.
In 2012, despite losing to Djokovic in the longest Grand Slam final ever at the Australian Open, many thought that Nadal played the best he's played against Djokovic since 2010. That mental block he had developed was assuredly chipped away at the Monte Carlo Masters and the Rome Masters when he beat Djokovic both times. When he bested him in four sets at the French Open final, Nadal seemed like the Nadal of 2010. Whether that will hold on the grass and hard courts that they will play on the rest of the year remains to be seen, but Nadal certainly seems to be in a more confident frame of mind heading into Wimbledon.
Julie has followed tennis her entire life and is a featured tennis contributor for the Yahoo Contributor Network. She feels that this current tennis era is more interesting when Nadal is playing at his best.
- Sports & Recreation
- Rafael Nadal
- Novak Djokovic