A conversation about the upcoming French Open between three tennis fans: Sydneysider Lucy Perkins, New Yorker Asad Raza, and Ecuadorian-North Carolinian Juan José Vallejo.
Asad Raza: Hey guys, thanks for coming aboard the 3quarksdaily raft. So here we are at Roland Garros time, again, where for the last several years Rafa Nadal has been the bear that eats Roger Federer. J.J., you have the best account of the state of their rivalry I've heard. Care to run through it?
Juan José: I'm currently toasted, but I promise I'll send my run-through tomorrow. Hope you're all doing well!
Lucy: JJ! If I had thought one of us was gonna delay writing on account of being under the influence, you would have been my THIRD choice. I'll check back in after Fed's straight-set drubbing of Rafa in his HOME MASTERS FINAL. Oh yes. (Ed. Note: this message written eight hours before Roger Federer's May 17th straight-sets defeat of Rafael Nadal in the Madrid final.)
Juan José: Eh…oops. Wrong choice of words there!
What happened was that yesterday ended up being way more exhausting than I expected. It all started at 7:40 in the morning, when I woke up to fish for an internet stream so I could watch my Manchester United clinch the English Premier League title. Which they did, and I was very happy. Shortly after the celebrations ended, Nadal and Djokovic were on.
Now, I had already written off the match as a straight sets defeat for Djokovic, since he was playing on his third straight week, and Nadal even had a walkover in his “home” tournament. But then the match started, Nadal looked terrible and Djokovic looked good. When Djokovic served out the first set, I thought he had a great chance to win this, if Nadal didn't improve dramatically. Djokovic was playing his game, not even going for anything spectacular, and it seemed that staying the course would be enough to win the match. Then, at 1-2 in the second, Nadal calls for the trainer, and he gets his knee taped. I thought, hey, now there's an enormous chance. Djokovic adjusted on the fly, making Nadal hit loads of backhands, since the taped knee was his right one, which he pushes off when he hits off his backhand side. That was a nice adjustment to see. So I thought, man, this is really going to happen! Even if it was similar to last year's Nadal-Ferrero match in Rome, who cares, it was a clay win over Nadal. And Nadal didn't look good. He wasn't moving well. He looked like he was about to retire.
But of course, that didn't happen. What happened instead was that he stopped missing. Welcome to Nadal hell. However, Djokovic was still playing well, so even when he lost that second set tiebreaker, I thought he had a big chance in the third. So it was no surprise to see him go up a break. But then cramps hit, he gets broken, and the real match started.
I'll echo Djokovic in saying that there is very little to say about what followed. All the evidence you need to see was there in those last games of the third set. It was unbelievable, it was ridiculous, it was crushing, and it was heartbreaking, in a strange way. The worst way to endure a defeat is if your sporting entity choked, and that was not the case. But it also hurts when your sporting entity plays as well as he can possibly play, and still lose. As an Agassi fan, I've been through that before. It's a special kind of heartbreak.
So the only influence I was under all day was from a pint of Guiness I had stored in our refrigerator here for extreme emergencies. It had been sitting there for about 9 months. So that and videos of Manchester United celebrating made me happy again.
Anyway, we're missing the Madrid final here because of Amy's birthday brunch. I'll talk about the Federer-Nadal thing when I get back.
Asad: Actually, I think it's quite appropriate that we ended up talking about Djokovic, who has been pushing Rafa on clay more than anyone else–Federer may have won the Madrid final, he might owe Novak part of that check–it was the match with Novak that took the starch out of Rafa. Or did Federer make a true breakthrough just when none of us expected him to beat Nadal on clay again, Luce?
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