Rafa 2011

One look down the career of Rafael Nadal will tell you that this year for him personally has not been that bad.He has seen the exhilarating highs of the 2010 season and the painful lows of the 2009 season. Before that he has had years of consistent tennis where he dominated the clay court season and worked hard to improve on other surfaces as well, with results to show for it. It’s just that he has had to confront and repeatedly bow down to the Serbian road-roller.

It all started with the high of the new year. Nadal was on course for a ‘Rafa Slam’ as they liked to call it. Federer was in peak form after having beaten Nadal in a pulsating Tour Final’s Final. Djokovic was also on a high after having taken Serbia to their first Davis Cup Trophy. Murray was as usual just being himself.

Nadal started the Australian Open in commanding fashion. He reached the Quarterfinals without dropping a set. Then tragedy struck. He injured himself in the first first set of the Quarterfinal against David Ferrer. Djokovic beat Federer for the first time in a Grand Slam semi-final and then beat Murray in the final.

Nadal the took his time to recover from the injury and came back on tour in march. This is when he started his battle with Djokovic. He lost the Indian Wells 1000 final against To Djokovic after winning the first set. Then came the Miami 1000 final where he again lost the final after winning the first set. Djokovic then took a break due to injury and Nadal went on to win the Monte Carlo 1000 for a record 7th consecutive  time and the Barcelona 500 for the sixth time. Djokovic meanwhile came back on tour and went on to beat Nadal in Rome and in Madrid in straight sets. This I think was the turning point of the year. To beat Nadal on courts most familiar to him in straight sets was an incredible confidence booster to Djokovic.

Then came the French Open. Federer beat Djokovic in four sets and Nadal beat Federer, again in four sets. And that was it. No more title came Nadal’s way for the rest of the year. He lost the Wimbledon final to Djokovic, Lost in the second in Montreal, and lost out somewhere in Cincinnati. Again lost to Djokovic in the U.S Open in the finals, lost in the 3rd round in Shanghai and pulled out of Paris due to injury. He finally lost in the  group matches in the World Tour Finals.

3 titles. The only time he won less than that was in 2004 when he won 1 title. Then again, in 2004 he was 18 so you really can’t blame him for winning just one title. Since 2004, he has won 11(2005), 5(2006), 6(2007), 8(2008), 5(2009), 7(2010). But if you look at the times he has been runner up, he finished as finalist in 1(2004), 1(2005), 1(2006), 3(2007), 2(2008), 3(2009), 2(2010) and 7 this year. So overall if you look at the number of times he has made it to the finals, its 2(2004), 12(2005), 6(2006), 9(2007), 10(2008), 8(2009), 9(2010) and 10 times this year. That is as good as any of his previous 5 years. 5 sets here and there made all the difference.

Every sport need rivalries. Tennis has had its fair share of rivalries in the past. A lot of pairs would fight for the title of the greatest rivalries. For me, the greatest rivalry was and is continuing between Nadal and Federer. But I also feel that the Nadal Djokovic rivalry will be something to look forward to in the next few years. Nadal-Djokovic have played each other 29 times to Nadal-Federer’s 26. Nadal has a 16-13 record over Djokovic and a 17-9 record over Federer. Nadal-Djokovic have met in finals 10 times before with Djokovic winning 6, all of them this year. Comparatively, Nadal-Federer have met in finals 19 times with Nadal winning 13 times in these. The only person before who had a great rivalry with two different men was McEnroe and that was against Borg and Connors.

Nadal will be playing in the Davis cup this week against Argentina and that will be his last tournament this year. I can only hope that he gets back his past form next year. Or that Djokovic remains injured throughout the year. Or that Federer clinches those damn match points when they come his way. An Arsenal review will be coming along later this month.

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