As I watched Rafael Nadal blast an incredibly in-form Jo-Wilfried Tsonga off of the court late last night at the Key Biscayne tournament in Miami, I was reminded often of Melbourne, Australia and by that I mean of course, the Australian Open.
Throughout this year Nadal has played some inspired high-level tennis. These matches while good were not even remotely close to what was on display last night, so I was reminded of where Nadal simply was on fire last year at the Australian Open.
In almost every rally Tsonga was on the run with Nadal painting line after line. The ball was exploding off of Nadal's racket like a cannon blast. Tsonga, whose game is dynamic, simply could not find a way to go on the offensive last night.
This was a different Rafael Nadal—the one that has been missing for the last 10 months and the one that dominated the tennis world until Roland Garros last year.
I was also reminded of the Australian Open in 2008.
This was the tournament that sounded the arrival of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to the world. The Frenchman defeated Nadal in the semifinals in fairly easy fashion. Last night, however, it was a complete role reversal with Nadal not only the victor, but at least for one match the master.
Like cars, tennis players have gears. As near as I can tell, Nadal was in his highest gear last night. I think everything simply clicked for him. His confidence always on the verge of fully recovering seems like it is back.
The problem now is Andy Roddick, who is looking as good as I have seen him in some time.
With a Masters Series win this week I believe that Rafael Nadal will break his winless streak in tournaments and begin his ascent towards the top of the rankings.
If Nadal plays as well as he did last night, even Roger Federer just might be shaking in his tennis shoes.