What I really liked about the 2019 AO final last night between Novak and Rafa, their 53rd meeting, is how, true to form, this in-form Djokovic makes things so crystal clear for the audience, a crowd we could describe as a bit unhinged in their fanaticism, delusional perhaps: certainly unbalanced.
Djokovic’s balanced tennis brings all of this discordance to light.
The match itself was light. The Serb from his pre-match introduction through to the trophy presentation, provided us with a clear and calm disquisition about his business-as-usual approach to these potentially heavyweight fights. Nadal, by contrast, was on edge, seemed a bit unnerved on this grand occasion. I might say Nadal, understandably, was a bit insecure.
Some of the nerves are understandable, expected even. But as Djokovic, after winning the toss and electing to serve, ran through his first service game and then as quick as A-B-C was up 3-0, much of that heavy air that prognosticators and rabid fans wanted to see fill Rod Laver Arena swirled into the breezy night air, dissipating as the competition resorted to a one-sided affair. Professor Djokovic had begun another mesmerizing lecture of sorts on true tennis class.
The entire match, from my perspective, anticipating a win from Novak, maintained this sense of clarity and complexity.
For those interested in understanding Novak’s tennis (and Nadal’s), put your fanaticism aside. Professor Djokovic, the dark knight, survivor of multiple Djokollapses, truly wants fans to understand.
You can see this desire in his sometimes frustrated grimaces at the lack of recognition of his greatness. Fedal have certainly garnered more adoration, built more idolatry (though some of the biggest douche-bags are, in fact, Djokovic fans: fact).
The best part of all of this is that Novak’s tennis, in the end, does all the talking.
What can I say more about the actual tennis, the actual match? I wrote at-length previewing this match, and it played-out much as I had thought.
In one post I wrote regarding two ways of looking at the match:
2) Will Rafa be able to consistently enough beat Novak in this shortened-point approach? Will he win enough points this way? If Novak can extend the rally, advantage most likely goes to the Serb. If this is the case, does Nadal get desperate and go for too much on these “attacks,” trying to end points too quickly?
This might be Nadal’s best chance to outlast Novak, who will certainly be willing to take this to five sets. Does Rafa want to go five sets, try to outlast Novak? Something tells me: No.
I think Novak got a little taste of this style from Pouille, though I am not going to say the Frenchman is hitting or spinning his ball as hard or finding as many lines as the Spaniard. But my point: Novak’s speed, flexibility and sheer uncanny ability to dig and defend as well as he does against these kinds of attacks are pretty much what define the Serb’s genius — his defense and his defense-to-offense mastery.
The points were often much longer than those typical of Nadal v Tsitispas and some of Nadal’s other matches. He was not able to shorten the points like he did against lesser, more overwhelmed players.
This seemed the obvious prediction, perhaps buried in my long-winded discourse. His manic form, another topic about which I contemplated at length, would meet a much different level in the final.
In the end, in my post yesterday, hours before the match, I calmly said this:
Novak should take this match tonight. That’s just the way this should go. Mentally and skillfully, he’s stronger.
This was clearly the case. Mentally, from the calm before the match, to his poise throughout his exchanges with the Spanish great, especially during those bigger moments of the match (there were two or three maybe), his fortitude simply presents too much for so many of his opponents. And as I have written, he will remain, especially in the last 7-8 years, the Nadal antidote.
Skillfully, this match was just a remarkable comparison between these two greats. Novak’s game is so much more complete, balanced, and downright scary. No need to go into each part of the game, but from the serve, to the BH, the ROS, court-coverage, etc., huge advantage Novak.
(this reminded me a bit of 2017 IW, Miami and Shanghai where an in-form Federer almost toyed with Nadal).
Lastly, I am going to defend Mcshow — hahahahahah.
I ridiculed Nadal’s draw, mocked the pillow-soft nature of his competition in this major.
I posted this gif 1,000,000 times:
Yesterday, I actually apologized for this slightly twisted sense of humor. I rescind said apology. Lol. His draw was a joke, so he feasted and built-up quite a head-of-steam in his own camp along with millions of delusional fans’ brain farts.
And the form. Guess what this brilliant, aggressive, attacking, shortening-the-point kind of form really meant?
Nadal is scared of injury. He realizes he can’t weather long battles on the tennis court (especially the hard court) any longer (never really could). So, they probably had this strategy in mind in order to have a good tournament, but remain healthy for the up-coming North American hard courts and then the ALL IMPORTANT clay. That’s Nadal’s game plan, his career.
He probably didn’t even expect to make the final in Melbourne. But he was not going to fuck around in some kind of longer, physically damaging matches that might jeopardize the rest of 2019.
Then he got that draw. Suddenly, we had the redesign of Nadal — look at that form!
Last night, he was much more middle of the court with Novak, his ROS was garbage (clearly he was completely overwhelmed with REALITY) and Novak, as I and anyone with a brain would have thought was able to dig and return with interest much of this great, aggressive miss-direction, DTL “dominance” we saw against the likes of Ebden, De Minaur and Tiafoe. 😉
17-15. Very interesting.
Get ready for a fucking loaded spring and the next major installment of Djokodal: Roland Garros 2019. 😀