I am going to say, emphatically, yes (with an IF explained below).
More to come later after the second SF, but this one is a partial victory for Djokovic for obvious reasons. But what seemed interesting to me, I watched some of this on my phone in bed, dozing, was Novak’s calm and at times a kind of disinterest. His emotional outbursts suggest he had plenty of interest, so we’ll just call this a palpable calm. He didn’t play with a kind of urgency one needs to beat Nadal, but that’s what makes this all the more concerning for Rafa, imho.
Juxtapose Novak’s “calm” with Nadal’s urgency, down two BPs in the first game of the match, or especially in the TB, and there you have it. In other words, there are many good signs from the Serb, in the way he threatened Nadal in this match, but he’ll need more energy, more of that big-point genius to get by Rafa.
Indeed, this is what has to be concerning for Nadal: “this” Djokovic gave Nadal fits in this match. The nervousness of the Spaniard, especially in the first set, and the relative ease Djokovic had of staying with him really throughout, of pressuring Nadal’s serve, breaking back in the first, etc., especially given the Serb’s form, what he’s been doing this year on the tennis court, means the Serb is an established threat to the king of clay in 2018, speaking of course of the only real clay tournament left.
If Djokovic can find that fitness he’ll need. I suspect some of this “calm” I’m observing is Novak trying to preserve his limited fitness. He still looks out of match shape to play a guy like Nadal. We heard Novak complaining vehemently to tournament officials yesterday regarding the scheduling (which I touched on in a previous post).
If I had written that preview last night, I would have said I can see a Nadal three-setter. This prediction rested mostly on fitness (and form, too, since the Serb is still finding his).
If I’m in Nole’s camp, I’m all about getting him rested, fit and fed for war. He can beat Nadal on clay, no doubt. Today’s match, Novak getting a double break point in game 1, breaking back to get to a TB and really making Nadal look vulnerable most of the match, indicates there’s at least one (other) threat on clay for Nadal.
However (of course), Rafa’s charge is still tough to overcome. His urgency to stomp-out BPs and to jump-on opponents early in sets and break their spirits with long physical rallies, among other elements, make him a nightmare. Obviously.
Talk to you later.