French Open 2012: Poor Serving from Novak Djokovic Hands Rafael Nadal Title
After rain caused suspension of play yesterday at Roland Garros, which resumed this afternoon, Rafael Nadal claimed a record seventh title, emerging victorious in four sets over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
Nadal’s record in eight years at Roland Garros stands now at an incredible 52 wins and one loss. Robin Soderling defeated the “King of Clay” in the fourth round of 2009.
Rafa however, was suffering from tendonitis in both knees at the time and unable to defend his Wimbledon title several weeks later.
A Rain-Interupted Sunday
Yesterday’s final started badly for Djokovic, the winner of the last three Grand Slams.
Rafa raced to a 3-0 first set lead in less than fifteen minutes. The Serb rallied and broke back twice to level at 3-3.
Then, unbelievably, having done so well to get back on level terms, Nole double faulted on break point down to hand the initiative back to Nadal. Nadal was then able to close out the set 6-4.
The “Serbinator’s” poor serving continued into the second set. Having moved to two sets, and 2-0 third set lead, it looked as if Rafa was moving towards winning his seventh match of the tournament, and this year’s title, without losing a single set.
Then, something happened to Djokovic.
Perhaps in realization that the end was near, he relaxed and began hitting harder, flatter shots. He broke the Spaniard and reeled off seven consecutive games to win the third set 6-2 and move to a 2-0 lead in the fourth.
The third set had been played in a steady drizzle which, at 2-1 in the fourth set increased, making play impossible.
We’ll never know what would have happened if play had not been suspended, as the momentum was well and truly with Nole at this stage.
Many might argue that it was the rain, which had affected Rafa—3 News reported that he complained he was having difficulty seeing the ball clearly.
Rainy Days and Mondays Didn't Get Rafa Down
When the match resumed on Monday at lunchtime, Rafa quickly broke Novak.
At 5-6, 30-40 stood at match point.
As he had done at the same stage of this year's Rome Masters final, Djokovic promptly double faulted to hand the match to Rafa.
A Final Word
Overall, I found the final something of a disappointment.
Rafael Nadal is undoubtedly the greatest clay court player of all time, but at this level, players should at least be able to hit a decent percentage of first serves into play.
They certainly must not double fault on huge points.
Rafa totally deserved to win the tournament. His performances, particularly his demolition of David Ferrer in the semifinals, were truly incredible.
The "King of Clay” has improved in almost all aspects of his game. Earlier this year, he added a little weight, around five grams, to his racquet head. This has added more power to his serve and groundstrokes.
It makes me wonder why he’d never thought of doing it before.
2011 saw Novak Djokovic produce some of the most unbelievable results and performances in tennis history.
Undefeated for most of the year, winner of Wimbledon, the US Open and then continuing this form to win the 2012 Australian Open, Nole was on the verge of becoming the first man since 1969 to hold all four Grand Slams at the same time.
But, his form in the clay court season leading to Roland Garros was patchy.
He lost twice to Rafa in the Masters finals at Monte Carlo and Rome, and I expected more from him these past two weeks.
Against Andreas Seppi in the fourth round he was two sets down, and against Jo-Wilfired Tsonga in the quarterfinals he four match points down—hardly impressive performances from the world number one.
Well done to Djokovic for reaching his first French Open final, destroying Roger Federer in the semifinals and being the only man this year to win a set against Nadal on red clay—don’t mention the blue stuff in Madrid.
But, come on Novak: get a serve in when it matters.