Rafael Nadal: Rafa's Wimbledon Journey and Popcorn
We all love movies—one kind or the other. But there is nothing like a good drama with a lead who takes you along, on his journey through various highs and lows; in his victories and defeats.
As a prelude to Wimbledon, lets try to revisit Nadal's Wimbledon journey till date. And lets revisit it with popcorn and coke because believe it or not, it IS a true summer blockbuster.
Introduction: Nadal Tries to Find His Place Among Giants. Wimbledon(2003-2005)
Nadal enters Wimbledon for first time in 2003 at the age of 17 and becomes the youngest man to reach the third round since Boris Becker in 1984. Brought up on clay, he struggles on unfamiliar turf.
He misses Wimbledon 2004 though people don't miss him in it. They don't know him yet. In 2005 however he starts making his name on clay and wins his first Rolland Garros. Still, critics write him completely off on grass citing his style of play.
Proving them right, he crashes out of Wimbledon 2005 in 2nd round. More disappointment.
And He Meets the Master (Wimbledon 2006)
He becomes the new face of tennis. People start seeing him as someone who can dethrone the King. But probably not on Grass. Seeded second for the first time, he defeats the mighty Agassi (at his decline though) in thirrd round.
He gets rid of next three opponents in a flash to set up the final face-off with Federer. Federer: Champion for last three years.
And Nadal feels the force. He experiences the class of Federer. In fact, initially he is so shaken up that he looses the first set 0-6 in a flash.
He tries hard—one thing that you can never take away from him. Somehow he manages to take one set away from Federer but ultimately Federer prevails quite comfortably. Score reads : 6–0, 7–6(5), 6–7(2), 6–3.
Good try but not good enough for the master.
Battle Royale Part II (Wimbledon 2007)
This year Rafa enters Wimbledon after yet another victory over Roger in the French Open. And Roger is expected to get revenge in his den.
Rafa's journey to final is not easy at all as he has to fight off two consecutive five-setters in the third round and fourth round. Luckily, Semifinal is not that taxing as Djokovic retires in middle of the contest.
D-Day comes. And as usual the man on the other side is Federer. This time fans see a much closer duel with some marked improvement in Nadal's play.
Still, in key moments Federer finds his range and accuracy to edge out Nadal in tie-breakers in first and third set. Rafa feels pain in his right knee in the fourth set but comes out strongly to win the set.
However, Federer wins in 5 highly competitive sets.
Scoreline: 7–6 (7), 4–6, 7–6 (3), 2–6, 6–2.
Nadal gives his fans a glimmer of hope and they believe now that Rafa has in him to eventually take out Federer. After this disappointment, Nadal waits for another opportunity.
And Finally Nadal Conquers the Master and the Grass (Wimbledon 2008)
Federer comes to Wimbledon after suffering humiliation at the hands of Nadal in the French Open. People expect him to get back at Nadal strongly to even things out. After-all that has been the story for the last two years.
But what follows is one of the matches of all-time. Perhaps the Greatest Wimbledon Final ever.
Nadal cruises through first two sets 6-4 6-4. And it seems finally his moment has arrived.
Weather wants to be a part of the epic too. It intervenes in the 3rd which goes to a tie-breaker which Federer wins 7-5 to stay alive.
The fourth set is even more dramatic. It goes to the tie-breaker yet again. Nadal gets 2 championship points but Federer fights back, fighting not to let go of his favorite crown. He wins the fourth.
The fifth set is again marred by a rain interruption but it does not dampen the intensity of the climax. The two players match each other shot for shot until, finally Nadal breaks Federer to go up a break up (8-7).
Tension builds up as the next game goes to deuce but this time Nadal does not let go of this opportunity.
Finally, in his 3rd attempt Nadal achieves what experts fore-told he never would. The world sees a shift in the power and as Federer will realize later Nadal gets into his head.
And the Story Continues...
Nadal doesn't return to defend his title in 2009 due to injury. Federer regains the crown in his absence.
Nadal returns to claim his trophy back in 2010. Anticipation rises before Berdych plays the spoil sport and takes out Federer. Since then it becomes Nadal's trophy to loose and which he does not.
These two champion's battle in this arena has become one of the most intruiging story of tennis. A teenager who once could not play on grass wins THE trophy against one of the best grass court players ever. As I said, a perfect summer blockbuster.
Lets hope this year they meet once again so that this story can continue for a bit longer. After-all this is a movie that none of us want to end.