Did anyone bet on Lleyton Hewitt today? If so, then that person must have been the absolute height of optimism to have placed such a foolhardy bet; while those who pegged Rafa to do the "wiping the court" act: Rejoice...your man has done it again!
Today, as I observed this match [more closely than I have ever observed any of Federer's] I came to a few conclusions; Numero Uno: Rafa Nadal was not playing his 100% physical best, he was playing as if he was making two sunny sides up for breakfast.
His game today was a chess without 64 squares, where he dominated Lleyton all throughout; Hewitt was physically attacking-Rafa was defending superbly and where Rafa was attacking mentally-Hewitt was failing pathetically.
There was nothing extra-ordinary about the way Rafa played; In fact I would say that, had Hewitt possessed the necessary mental strength, he could have pushed Rafa to a close fifth and could have possibly won the match too.
And there emerges, yet another observation from my side; till now Rafa hasn't been challenged to a mind game by any of his opponents. He has dominated over them not by muscle power but more by way of mental omnipresence.
Marcos Daniels's game in the first round would have proved to be difficult for any other player but Rafa ruled there in spite of trailing in the second set initially; Gabashvili's rallies in the second round, forced Rafa to his dig into his last resort armoury, but there again, it was Gabashivili who had to bite the dust.
And today, it was Hewitt's turn to take an exit in spite of all his aggression and fiery intensity.
Take the first game of Hewitt's serve; he was leading 40-0 and the shout of "C'mon" was confidence speaking which then went lurching down the drain. No.. Rafa didn't do anything, at least not with his shots: It was more like, Rafa looked at Hewitt as if to say, "Oh you can do this to me, can you?" and Hewitt just came tumbling down.
The flash of defiance that shone in his eyes for that protracted second- had that been continuous through the entire course of the match, Rafa would have been shaken and ratted thoroughly.
As the match progressed into the second set, Rafa did further damage to the gritty Aussie's ego by breaking him in the opening game itself and then proceeded to take a 2-0 lead winning his own service game.
The Aussie, though it appeared had had enough and to square things, he levelled the scores at 2-2 by breaking Rafa in the fourth game. Rafa's look at that point was enough to raise goose-bumps in any other player, making him recoil with fear and terror.
Did anyone say that Rafa and Hewitt are friends? Friendship doesn't even feature in the context here for, the baleful glare that Rafa fixed upon Hewitt, it was pressing in on absolute animosity.
The former World No. 1's problems were further aggravated by the fact that his first serve wasn't ticking in addition to his umpteen unforced errors. At one point of time, Hewitt's errors were exactly the double of the rusty Spaniard's.
After the capture of the first two sets [6-1, 6-3] by Rafa, the third set was played because of the compunction that in the slams, it's always a three set minimum and in a situation akin to the first set, Rafa found himself with two breaks of Hewitt serve and serving for the match in the seventh game. Unlike his usual stance though, this time he aced the winning shot to grin ruefully at Hewitt as if he didn't want the outcome so early in the day.
Hewitt, however, in the entire course of the match wasn't able to hold on to two successive games, how could he? He virtually had no say in the hour long one sided battle of wits with Rafa; Rafa had come prepared to be the winner and win he did even with his next to ordinary shot placements.
The final outcome of this match presented, at least from Toni and Rafa Nadal's perspective, a regular hour long practice session, but for the others; especially the likes of Federer, Murray and Nole; it sent a clear cut message: There is no way this time one can get away by getting involved with "Dee Rafa!"
Rafa is on a roll in the city of fashion and while he is at it, he won't hesitate to steamroll anyone standing in his dirt track, come whatever and whoever may!
PS: Special dedication with a "Sorry" to LJS whose favourite succumbed to "Le Taurus" along with loads of luck for the next week tests!
PPS: Congratulations to my second "All Time" favourite Nikolay Davydenko for obliterating Stanislas Wawrinka: 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in his third round encounter!