It's been a quiet week with Roger losing early in Rome but with Djokovic dismissing Raonic and Nadal schooling Dimitrov to setup another mouthwatering final I decided to tune in. As usual I wasn't disappointed as Djokovic came from a set down to defeat Nadal 4-6 6-3 6-3 and win his 5th Masters 1000 tournament out of the last 6 he has played in.
That's quite an incredible run of form and Djokovic continues to grow and grow on me. As a Fed fan you just have to appreciate what he is able to do against Dull on a clay court. This is a Djokovic that's playing his first tournament back since an injury too who's looked a little ropey this week. First of all he takes out Raonic who was playing one of his best ever matches and then he comes from a set down to beat one of his main rivals on their preferred surface. Pretty special.
Djokovic Rises to the Occasion
The first set Djokovic was never at the races and as you'd expect Nadal took full advantage of it to take the lead. This guy is probably the best opportunist in tennis of all time, he just smells weakness and goes for the kill. In the second though things changed and Djokovic began to strike the ball much better off both wings, he had Nadal pinned behind the baseline constantly on the defensive. There was a shaky moment when he got broken back at 3-1 despite leading 40-0 but he regrouped to break again and serve the set out 6-3.
Momentum was well and truly with the Serb at this point and he again got an early break to give himself the advantage in the final set. Nadal of course keeps running and he took advantage of some slack play to break back again only for Djokovic to break, hold and then break again to win his third Rome title in dominant fashion.
An impressive victory and I can see this match being fairly important for future matches too as coming from a set down to win on clay is a real turn up for the books. It's the first time Djokovic has managed to do it on this surface and I can't think of many matches where Nadal has lot on clay when he won the first set if any. Hopefully we get to see them play in a best of 5 at the French Open and it's going to be extremely tough to call. Nadal ground out some impressive victories this week and started to look more and more dangerous but now he's taken another hit in a final against an opponent who has won their last 4 encounters.
I'm always surprised when Fed fans say they don't enjoy this rivalry as it's far better than Fedal ever was as it's much more of a level playing field. It's all really down to one shot – the 2 handed backhand which nullifies Nadal's forehand and just remphasises that tennis is about match ups. Fed is the most complete player of all time without a shadow of a doubt but his 1 hander on high bouncing courts that take spin against a lefty is just a bad bad matchup. There's other issues too but purely from a technique standpoint that is a huge factor. The fact he's even beaten Nadal on clay twice is impressive in itself.
I think this is probably the best rivalry in tennis at the moment as their is always a lot on the line when the play. Fedal was born from media hype after the Wimbledon Final in 2008 but Djokodal is born more from just tennis and 2 guys going toe to toe. Don't get me wrong it's not the prettiest tennis to watch and you need to set aside at least 3 hours of your day for a match but as a Fed fan it's fun to see Djokovic dictate proceedings. If only he could volley the results would be even more one sided 😀
Next Stop Roland Garros
Next stop is the French Open and Fed will need to be at a high level to make the second week I think. Lack of matches could work against him but he should be able to play himself into the tournament in the first 2 rounds to get that sharpness and competitive edge back.
Another pat on the back for Djokovic here too as he stopped Ferrer making the semi finals ensuring that Fed stays at Number 4 ahead of the draw which will be next week. How will Fed do? I'm not really sure as it's a bit of an unknown, he's going to be physically fresh but mentally not that match sharp. This year has been way better than last though so he's got to summon some of the tennis he managed in Dubai and Indian Wells and I think he can make the semi finals.
There will most likely be some dangers on the way as Raonic is looking a threat on clay right now and we've big servers like Isner play big matches at the French so the Canadian can't be underestimated. Nishikori could factor too if his body holds up and he's fully recovered from his back injury.
With no one player really dominating this year so far it looks set to be an interesting tournament and perhaps a winner can come outside of the top 4. Live chat will be back for all Roger's matches of course and Men's first round matches start Sunday 25th of May and are played on the 25th, 26th and 27th so stay tuned 🙂