A strange thing happened in the men’s singles final at Wimbledon in 2008—Roger Federer lost and Rafael Nadal won after his third trip to the Wimbledon final. Clearly, the third time for Rafa proved to be the charm.
Fast-forward to the US Open final of 2008. The final had a familiar face in the final, Roger Federer, and a surprise finalist—Andy Murray, who beat Rafa in the semifinal leading up to the final.
Don King, in the events leading up to the US Open of 2008, in a promotional gimmick promised us a “Grapple in the Apple” and asked us if we wanted to see Federer and Nadal in the final in New York City. After seeing Federer and Nadal square off in Paris and the Wimbledon finals several times, tennis fans in New York were anxious to see the two men in a hard court final for the first time.
Rafa almost made it to his first-ever US Open final last year, but consider the summer he had leading up to the Open.
He had his usual phenomenal clay court season; he wrestled the Wimbledon trophy from Roger Federer’s grasp after the best Wimbledon final EVER; he finally wrestled the No. 1 ranking from Federer during the American hard court season; he won the Gold Medal at the Olympics and entered his first Grand Slam as the No. 1 player when he entered the 2008 US Open.
This shows the effort it took to end the dominance of Roger Federer.
Rafa has admitted that he was simply tired from a long tennis year to partially explain his loss in the US Open 2008 semifinal. After ending the No. 1 reign and prising the Wimbledon trophy from Roger, Rafa certainly earned the right to be tired.
While Rafa certainly has the talent and game to make it to the final of the US Open, the question is, will he finally be able to break through and last until the end of the Grand Slam season, which ends with the US Open?
It is well known that Rafa’s uncle Toni has recognized the physical nature of Rafa’s game and is taking steps to ensure his nephew will have lasting power in both the tennis year and his tennis career. Rafa’s schedule has been closely monitored so that he can better ration his energy to ensure that he doesn’t suffer burnout.
The short-term plan is that Rafa’s schedule will ensure that he can last through the entire tennis season, but in the long term hopefully he will enjoy some longevity in his tennis career. Time will tell if Rafa enjoys any success with this plan.
Frankly, I cannot see Rafa ever winning the US Open. Usually by the time he gets to New York in late August, he has logged an extraordinary number of hours on the tennis court. Since he’s so successful during his annual clay court campaigns, this is the season where Rafa uses up a lot of his energy on the tennis court.
Also, since he’s usually in the final of most clay court events, this makes it even more taxing on his body. It is not in Rafa’s nature to hold back when in full competitive mode.
Sadly, unless Rafa seriously looks at the amount of energy he expends during competitions, I see him coming up short every time the US Open comes along to complete the Slam season.