It’s a bit of a shame Stan’s fantastic US Open run had to come to an end, but in the end he had no chance at all against Nadal. For this reason I was rooting for Djokovic, and he won another classic between the two 2-6, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. The problem for Stan against Nadal is that he has a one-handed backhand, he lacks the self-belief to beat Nadal, as well as the experience of a slam final. Djokovic has the best two-handed backhand in the sport, he has beaten Nadal in several slam finals, and he is vastly experienced. Clearly he has to be in the final if there is any chance at all of Nadal being stopped. Having said that, I give him about a 10% chance of winning the final. Nadal has not been beaten on hard courts the entire year. It will take a miracle for him not to win this title. It’s unfortunate but that is the reality we are being faced with.
Nadal didn’t even come out of second gear in his match against Gasquet, which he won 6-4, 7-6(1), 6-2. Nadal wasn’t impressive, because he didn’t have to be. He knew he basically just had to show up to beat his mentally inferior opponent. I watched the first game of the match only and had seen enough. Gasquet was up 40-15 and still managed to get broken. He was immediately standing far behind the base line and allowing Nadal to dominate. From the highlights I saw it was a poor quality match. In fact I couldn’t even finish watching the highlights so boring was it. Gasquet getting breadsticked in the tie break and serving two double faults in it pretty much sums it up. No self belief at all and just handing Nadal a free pass to the final. We are talking about mentally the strongest player in the sport against mentally one of the weakest if not the weakest.
There could only be one result. Like I said Nadal never even came out of second gear and no doubt some uneducated tennis fans will be fooled into thinking Nadal is not looking in great form, and Djokovic has a great chance of winning the final. Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything the match showed how good Nadal is, because he didn’t even have to come out of second gear to win a slam semi in straight sets. You better believe come tomorrow he will be out there with all guns blazing against Djokovic. Nadal has figured out that to beat Djokovic he has to step into the court and be as aggressive as possible. It took him a while and a few tough losses to figure it out, but you can’t keep Nadal down. He will find a way eventually. Djokovic hasn’t been the player he once was in 2013 either. His slam results have been consistent and he won the Australian Open.
But outside the slams he hasn’t impressed and he has lacked a certain edge overall. At the French he lost it after having Nadal by the balls in the 5th set, and then in the Wimbledon final he came up way short. There is just something lacking. It showed in his match with Nadal in Montreal as well. He went toe to toe with Nadal until the final set tie break but then inexplicably lost it. Tomorrow Djokovic has a big chance to redeem some of these tough losses he had this season as the #1 player. If he wins there can be no doubt that he deserves his #1 ranking. The French Open and Wimbledon losses will be forgotten, and 2013 will be another amazing season for him. His preparation for the final was excellent too. The match against Stan was a big test and he came through when it mattered. He was after all 2-1 down in sets.
I knew at that point the match was far from over, even though many people must have liked Stan’s chances. Stan was once again playing with great self belief which has been a feature of his play during this US Open. He has been playing with a certain freedom which I never saw him play with before, and that gets me wondering. Stan have always lived in the shadow of Roger, and it seems it has affected his tennis as well. Now that Roger is really struggling and doubting himself, it is like Stan has been freed and he is much more confident. He has played with a renewed sense of confidence all year which has peaked at the US Open. And I for one don’t begrudge him that at all. I am happy that he has been able to take advantage of Roger’s struggle and use it as a springboard to propel himself to greater things. He really has played exceptionally well.
This is what makes Djokovic’s win over him all the more impressive. Djokovic was not at his best from the beginning of the match. Something was once again lacking, and I think he needed this test. The fact that he could come back from 2-1 down against a rampant opponent must give him a certain amount of confidence. Who knows, maybe this was exactly what he needed to be able to stop Nadal? Maybe he has finally found that edge that he has been lacking this season? And maybe Nadal has not been tested enough? Nadal’s toughest match was against Kohlschreiber where he lost the first set. Other than that it has been smooth sailing for him. I just think that Nadal is so supremely confident and unstoppable that he doesn’t even need to be tested. But in the end if he can be stopped it will be by Djokovic.
I think I was being a bit harsh on Djokovic. I am counting him out too quickly. Having thought about it, the semi against Stan may have just helped him to get his mental edge back and there is no doubt he will very much like to get revenge for that French Open loss. So actually I’m gonna go back on what I said earlier and make this a 60/40 match in Nadal’s favor. I know when Nadal gets in this mood he has the momentum of a freight train and it basically feels like destiny that he will win this title, but I just can’t count Djokovic out. I still think Nadal will win this because he has not lost a match on hard court all year, but Djokovic leads him 3-2 in slam finals and is after all still the #1 player in the world. I bet he wants to win this more than anything. If Nadal wants to win #13 then Djokovic is gonna be like the Great Wall of China that the freight train has to drive through.
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