Mallorquín tennis player defeats Djokovic in a level match that was solved on the breathtaking 5th set (6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 y 9-7). On Sunday: Spanish final where Rafa can make history
LAS PALMAS DE GRAN CANARIA, 7 June 2013
Just great racquets provide sublime matches like this one: Rafa’s honor and perseverant against a struggling Nole. Over four hours and a half of a tug of war. Nadal jumped in Philippe Chatrier’s tennis temple, in a hurry to go for the Serbian with 6-4 on the first set. Djokovic got over it on the second set and tied the score. But happiness did not last long for the Balkan player, because 7-time Roland Garros winner displayed again his best game and won the 3rd set.
Although Djokovic committed far many unforced errors (75), put Rafa on the ropes again. The Spaniard was pushed further away the bottom line and whose shots remained in the middle of the court and so suitable to Nole’s waist height. Against all odds, Nadal could have ended up the match on the 4th set with 5-4 and 30-15 in his favor. However, first serve continues to be his unresolved issue, and a weak second one let World Number One, based in Montecarlo, went in the court with his backhand to win the 4th set in a hectic tie-break. But his failure in four clear smashes over the match is attention grabbing.
And the definite 5th set arrived. That opportunity to have finished the match up was still in Nadal’s mind, and in his legs, the fatigue triggered by a pretty intense rally of strokes. The Spaniard did not manage to weaken Serbian’s strength with topspin shots whose destiny was the net. Audience could notice Novak more aggressive, taking the initiative of the point and taking Rafa from one side to the other one of the court. For audience at Philippe Chatrier and worldwide 4-1 was more likely in favor of Nole than 3-2 for Mallorca-born player. Nadal suffered and made people suffer, but he climbed out of the adversity, fought for every single point to tie the score up to four games, after an endless shooting rally and exasperating Djokovic, a rival who mentally blocked the Spaniard in the previous years, specially after Australia Open and Montecarlo.
The clue moment arrived. Novak touched the net over a clear smash before the ball bounced for the second time in the opposite side of the court. Veteran umpire Pascal did not take into account Novak’s complaints and Rafa added one point. It was then when Nadal took off, winning his service and showing off his parallel banana shot and close to the line, made in Mallorca, the Champion’s home. With no tie break in the last set, both titans (coined this way by French press the previous days), both players clenched their serve until Nadal broke Djokovic’s and eventually won the match 9-7.
French audience surrendered to the Spaniard. Nadal’s smile gave away everything: to get through the final in Roland Garros’s clay for 8th time in his life. Neither Lendl, Sampras or Federer did it in the same competition. Full of strength, determination, sacrifice, humility, after a serious knee injury, … just few people could foretell one year ago that his stratospheric coming back to the road: Indian Wells, Madrid, Rome and … on Sunday, Parisian heaven. Guillermo Vilas should worry about his record and … with Ferru‘s [Ferrer] permission!