6 Lessons from the Italian Open as Rafael Nadal Is Victorious Again
And finally we have a winner of the ATP Rome 2012 Masters 1000, and it is none other than the irrepressible Rafael Nadal.
In a performance worthy of his record 21 Masters 1000 tournaments wins, the Spaniard dug deep into his reserves and gritted out a win after an epic struggle for two hours and twenty minutes against current world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
7-5, 6-3 was the final score and it was a fitting end to a tournament in which Nadal failed to drop a single set—the perfect denouement for what he will hope is to come.
Lessons from Rome? There's quite a few:
- There is only one king of clay;
- Everything about Madrid was a fluke;
- Djokovic's honeymoon period is over;
- Hard work is more important than talent;
- Does Ivan Lendl still coach Andy Murray?;
- No lead is insurmountable in tennis.
1. There's Only One King of Clay
Now firmly reinforced beyond doubt, Rafael Nadal truly is the number one player on the red dirt.
Coming into the final, there were doubts about the "legitimacy" of Nadal's win over Djokovic at the Monte Carlo Masters at the start of the clay court.
Some believed that personal matters that Djokovic was facing at the time distracted him from the match and had a hand his defeat.
As such, Rome was an opportunity for Djokovic to prove them right.
Speaking after the match, Djokovic proved them wrong:
He is always the favourite, even if I win against him seven times; he is the best player in the world on this surface.
I think that the match today was quite close, even if he won in straight sets. If you don’t use the opportunities against Rafa he gets momentum. I made a lot of errors which should not happen when you play against Nadal.
2. Everything About Madrid Was a Fluke
If the end result of Rome, only a week after Madrid, can be so utterly and completely different, then surely the outcome of Madrid can't be taken seriously.
..Well, maybe not everything.
(Nadal and Djokovic fans in my ear) Okay, everything.
3. Djokovic's Honeymoon Period Is over
Yes, he's won the Australian Open and....(someone help me) so far this year and lost in the finals of Monte Carlo and Rome to the greatest clay court player of the last 20 to 25 years. Yes, yes and yes.
However, after 2011, we expect better.
Djokovic hasn't just lost mere titles, he has lost that all-important aura of invincibility. Yes, Nadal lost the Australian Open and he was and will be disappointed about it, but let's consider it for a moment: Four months down the line, who is really winning?
I still maintain that the fourth set of this year's Australian Open final will come back to bite Novak. It is already. The match should have been wrapped up in that set, but he gave Nadal hope. Look where it's got him now.
And it's all his fault. The honeymoon period is over.
The love is lost.
4. Hard Work Is More Important Than Talent
If explicit success were measured by effort and perseverance alone, the Valencia native would be considered as one of the greatest of this era. Despite losing a close match again to Rafael Nadal (no shame in that), Ferrer showed the type of grit and determination that makes heroes out of men. He is all that's great about tennis in my opinion: honesty and innocence of effort.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Frenchman Richard Gasquet. I came across an interview he gave after defeating Andy Murray in the third round and just had to share it.
Here's what Gasquet had to say; pay particular attention to his comments about match time:
It was a big match and I was a little disappointed for losing the first set. One hour, 20 minutes is tiring for me and very tough, but then I started to play well and I broke him in the first game of the second set and I started to feel comfortable with my serve.
One hour and twenty minutes is tough for you? Figures. That's why it's taken me one hour and twenty minutes to find your ranking. Hell, I still can't find it.
5. Does Ivan Lendl Still Coach Andy Murray?
Doesn't seem like it....
6. No Lead in Tennis Is Insurmountable
Race to world No. 1 spot: 1740 ranking points and counting.