Epic Encounter: Thunder Down Under
It had the makings of a classic and it sure lived up to its hype. Except that this time Rafa didn’t fade away mid-way through the match. What a fantastic finish to the 1st grand slam of the season. The longest grand slam final in the open era might not have been sheer quality from start to finish but the fine shot making in the 4th and decisive 5th set more than made up for it. Two great warriors going at it for almost 6 hours, neither willing to let up, fighting for every point, making shots by the slightest of margins even though they were devoid of any energy in the closing stages, Nole more so than Rafa.
Rafa’s effort is surely commendable. I don’t know if he has solved the Djokovic puzzle but he is definitely close. The only question left in my mind is if Rafa was able to fight back because of the dip in Novak’s level of play (due to visible fatigue) or if he’s taken his game to a higher level. Djokovic was coming to the final after battling Murray for nearly 5 hours and the weariness showed as Rafa took the 1st set. Nole thoroughly outplayed him in the 2nd and 3rd sets and it seemed like it was going to be another 4 set win for Nole. Rafa, ever the fighter had other plans. Through sheer will and determination he was able to play toe to toe in the 4th set and despite being triple break down in the 8th game, he fought back gallantly and took the 4th in a breaker.
Momentum was clearly with Rafa in the 5th as Djokovic could barely move but somehow was able to play through it. Up 3-2, 30-15 Rafa missed a routine forehand volley that will give him nightmares. He squandered the chance to go up 5-2 and got broken back. That might have been all that Nole needed to claw his way back and once again show his supreme level of play that has befuddled Rafa the past 12 months. Djokovic might have won the match, and praise to him for his win but Rafa’s fighting spirit is unmatched and if he can indeed keep up this newfound belief that he can beat Djokovic he has every chance of taking back the no. 1 ranking.
The 2 best players in the game made it to the final and unfortunately one had to lose. It wasn’t Rafa’s day but I am sure in the coming battles between these two, Rafa will come out on top. On to Indian Wells. Vamos Rafa!