Wimbledon 2012: Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal Rivalry Delayed

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Wimbledon 2012: Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal Rivalry Delayed
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Lately, we have become so used to Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal playing each other in the Grand Slam finals that we just discount the 126 other players in the event.

It's good to get a reality check after Nadal's shocking defeat yesterday. This rivalry is too precious, too prestigious, for them to meet every month, even if it deprives us tennis aficionados of a Wimbledon final between the two greats.

In my mind, this rivalry was entering a critical phase.

Last year, Djokovic had a stranglehold on Nadal. It wasn't just that he won, but the manner in which he did so—nobody had been able to achieve that against Nadal.

In fact, I don't think anyone other than Nadal, for his sheer tenacity and will, could have come back after those defeats, especially after that body blow in Melbourne earlier this year. That Australian Open final has got to be Nadal's worst defeat of his life.

That's why Nadal's turnaround is just incredible, in that he was able to get that hurt out of his mind and concentrate on tennis. He actually matched Novak stroke for stroke.

To me, the single biggest difference between last year and this year is Novak's serve.

Last year, Novak's serve was almost impregnable and because his return game was always the best, it was only a matter of time before he got to his opponents, including Nadal.

His serving has definitely been weaker this year, (though nowhere near as poor as during his 2009-10 woes). Still, Novak would be the first to admit that his serving has not been as great as last year.

Once he takes care of his serve, his all-court game is superior to anyone else's in the game today. He is very, very difficult to beat.

Mentally, Novak has come a long way since 2009 and prior. He will probably never be as strong as Rafael in that department. Still, he needs to believe in himself, regardless of the blip in Roland Garros, and believe that one day he will complete the career Slam.

That he may never hold all four Grand Slams together should not really affect him. The sport has changed far too much from what it was 43 years ago for anyone to seriously compare to Rod Laver. 

For now, let us enjoy the surprises that Wimbledon throws at us, as we know that it's just a matter of time until these two indomitable fighters are back at each other! I promise you that.

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