Irony has a way of really putting things into perspective. There are so many examples of irony in our lives; what a shame if one doesn’t understand, nor can read the irony that surrounds him or her.
Tomorrow’s French Open final between Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Austria’s Dominic Thiem looks scheduled for the mid-afternoon, around 3:00pm.
What else is there to say other than Nadal looks totally in form after making a mockery of Juan Martin del Potro in their semi-final match on Friday. He beat the Argentine like a potential suitor to the throne, one some of us thought had a slim chance to threaten the clay king.
Nadal, if you’re not aware of this, will add an even more destructive tone to his punitive tennis if the stakes are high (obviously), or if there is any fitting history with a particular opponent; indeed, a match that has any tenor of revenge will become exhibit to this even more destructive Nadal. The clay, as we know, facilitates this relentless style, this perfect venue for such humiliation and annihilation.
Any chance he gets to destroy del Potro becomes a match made in hell for the demons that haunt Nadal (My more extensive version of this chapter on Nadal — Roger Created a Monster Part I: Nadal — will clarify and extend this insight).
He was 9-5 H2H against the Argentine going in and one of those losses was a ferocious beating at the hands of Juan Martin in the 2009 U.S. Open: 2 2 and 2. This is dynamite evidence for our previous and future meditations on the gentle giant’s early potential, the sport’s loss when he succumbed to injury, etc. Watching him play the tennis he’s been seen playing only brings us joy and sorrow, understandably.
There is a similar history (much shorter, of course) to tomorrow’s (today’s) final between Nadal and Thiem.
Thiem’s crushing victory in Madrid about a month ago had to hurt Nadal. This ended the Spaniard’s unbeaten-on-clay streak, having not lost a set on clay in about 300 years; Thiem’s straight-set win (almost a month ago to the day) was quite decisive: 75 63 was dismissive, which people had already normalized given Rafa’s historical difficulty in Madrid’s conditions. This was seen, in other words, as both predictable and an outlier, which was meant to defend the clay goat’s fame and dominance.
The part of the Austrian’s game with which I’m obsessed is his brilliant OHBH. When he can find the brutal angles CC and destroy an opponent’s form DTL, we have ourselves a deadly ATP assassin, especially on clay.
But even more obsessed I am with his court positioning. When he’s 15+ feet behind the BL, we hold our handkerchiefs close, hug our loved ones, and begin to process our Austrian hero’s grim prospects of escape.
This will especially be the case against Nadal, tomorrow. In Madrid, he pushed the world #1 around the court, dictating the points and history of tennis (asphyxiating Nadal’s streak in cold and definitive fashion).
So, we wonder if the seven-seed has enough courage to stand near the line and take that Nadal FH early enough to remain offensive, attacking and ultimately relevant in this 2018 Roland Garros men’s final.
For potentially five sets.
With rain in the forecast. Seriously.
Why in the world did I begin this post with a clichéd generalization about the irony in our lives, in the lives of others, throughout this complicated world we live in, defined by injustice and justice both, by inequality and morality?
We all (other than those fans rapid enough to be rendered incoherent and mad) want a dramatic, and violent tennis contest that shows both warriors landing blows, staggering each other in the fit of competitive balance, evidencing somehow the tennis gods to be impartial, unbiased on this quirky surface despite the decade-long rule of Rafa Nadal.
I believe we will see something that resembles a tennis match. Without such competition, the sport will be given, again, a soulless tennis match that diminishes a major final, further undermining this particular major.
Would be terribly ironic if rain does play a role, and if Thiem does manage to come through the conditions still standing, still delivering his fierce ground strokes (with efficient trips to the net to expose Nadal), posing a serious threat to the king.
Yep, irony can be quite the equalizer. Nadal, in addition to his rampant, high-level quality, needs that little bit of luck he’s almost always found (one does find their own luck, to be fair).
Do things continue to go Nadal’s way? Does he capture his eleventh French Open title, his 17th major? Probably.
But life sometimes (somehow) has other ideas.
Let it rain.
Fur lhre gesundheit!