June 6, 2014
Rafa Nadal is back.
The real Nadal, the fearsome Nadal, the unbeatable King of Clay. The scoreline – 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 – didn’t tell the entire story, because the gulf between Nadal and Murray was even greater.
In this kind of form, you wonder if there has ever been anyone who has played the game anything like as well as Rafa on his favourite surface. He is the first player to reach a ninth final here at Roland Garros. No one could have deserved it more. This may be as close to sporting perfection as we ever see. Time to enjoy it, time to savour something so rare, whoever our personal favourite on the circuit might be.
Rafa admitted: ‘I played my best tennis at Roland Garros today. It’s incredible to be back in a final here, it is very emotional to me. I never dreamed of a ninth final.’
Djokovic must be shaking his head already, wondering what on earth he’ll have to produce even to have a fighting chance against this mean tennis machine.
Nadal wasn’t taking victory for granted: ‘Novak is always a big, big challenge and he beat me the last few times. But I’m going to try my best and I’m improving day on day.’ That is an understatement. Just when we thought his career might be on the slide again, Rafa seems to have hit fresh heights. Nadal v Djokovic is still a mouthwatering prospect. But if Novak pulls this one off, it will have to go down as by far the greatest victory of his career. Right now it looks like mission impossible.
After a first half of the year when we wondered what grave problems Rafa must be hiding, he has suddenly found tennis so special that he simply took Andy Murray apart. This was capitulation. It looked like man against boy, and we had to remind ourselves of Murray’s own recent progress and incredible achievements in the last two years.
Murray complained of heavy legs. Even so…
To be dismantled in such humiliating style must have been tough on Andy. The likeable Wimbledon champion didn’t have a single break point. Nadal was so immaculate behind his first serve that he only dropped a couple of points that way in the first two sets.
Murray has always had something of an inferiority complex against Rafa, especially on clay. But this performance from the Scot seemed full of self-doubt after what had been an encouraging fortnight. British tennis fans will have to hope Murray can find some genuine self-belief on grass now, so that he can mount a serious defence of his title. Thank Heaven Wimbledon is played on grass not clay! Nadal won’t find it so easy to sweep aside his opponents at the All England Club.
Earlier Novak Djokovic had few problems seeing off Ernests Gulbis, though the underdog did at least take the third set in a 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 semi-final.
In general, however, Novak didn’t need to come up with anything too special, because Gulbis tried too hard and virtually beat himself. Can Djokovic stop Rafa when the Spaniard has suddenly found this kind of superhuman tennis? You have to wonder, though the final cannot possibly be as one-sided as Nadal’s annihilation of Murray.
Want to come and see the world’s greatest players battle it out in the gladiatorial arenas of Wimbledon?
Just click on the following link and marvel at Rafa and the rest.