AO2012 Men’s Final Preview Thoughts: So this is how it’s going to be. (by PJ)
If this is not Australian Open, I wouldn’t bother…no, not really. As sadface and grouchy and kinda devastated I am over Roger’s loss, I like to think I can still appreciate a good tennis match. And let’s face it, yesterday’s match – after sucking for 1.5 sets in hilarious comedy of errors – ended up being a great one. The match showcased shots, talent, stamina, physical and mental strength, and the fact that I think that may be a match more about the loser than the winner.
The general consensus after the match was that Andy Murray has arrived. I’m not entirely convinced – just because of the way he sort of mentally disappeared during the 4th set after a hard-fought 3rd set, and the way he could not mentally hold on to push Djokovic after successfully breaking him when he was serving for the match. Those are opportunities he HAS to take and by not taking them, he ended up on the losing side, and the “could have, should have, would have” side of things (my my, how familiar). Having said that, his post-match conference showed a maturing player, confident about his chances for the rest of the season. I doubt that he’s going to go into post-tournament meltdown ala 2010/2011. Mr.Lendl is good for him. And Mr.Lendl will ensure that the for the rest of the season, it will be more about the Big 4 rather than the Top 3 + Murray.
So, the final tomorrow. Nadal versus Djokovic. Playing for the history books, playing for confidence, playing for that humongous mental advantage for the rest of the year. How much bigger can it get?
Despite that 6 straight losses last year, you’ll have to be insane to count out Nadal completely. And despite that gruelling semi-final and lesser rest, you’ll also have to be insane to count out Djokovic. For me, there’s no clear-cut winner in this one. In my opinion, skill/game wise, both players are similar in their baseline styles. Nadal has a killer forehand. Djokovic has a killer backhand. Their chances will be hugely dependent on how well they serve on the day.
Mentally? Now this is interesting, isn’t it? Going back to 2009, I believe Nadal was able to beat Fed purely because of the mental edge. Fast-forward 3 years later, Nadal finds in himself in Federer’s shoes. Will he follow the same footsteps – ultimately losing the match because of SIX LOSSES lighting up in his brain in neon lights – or will he defy all odds and pull off a spectacular win? Rafa is one of the toughest out there when it comes to fighting spirit, let’s be honest. But then again, I’ve never seen him as lost as he did during last year’s US Open final…so it had to be said that tomorrow will be very very interesting indeed.
Why do I think Nadal will beat Djokovic:
1) Extra day’s rest. With his style of play, that extra day’s rest is VERY VERY handy. Djokovic is at a slight disadvantage just because of the physicality in their games.
2) PJ’s theory of Something’s Gotta Give. 6 losses in a row? No one beats Rafael Nadal 7 times in a row, no?
3) Rafa played the best tennis I’ve seen from him in a while in the match where he beat Grandpa Fed. If he keeps up that sort of performance and pulls off those crazy defensive shots, he’s well in it.
4) Djokovic’s “breathing problems” although let’s face it, it’s questionable but if it’s affecting him (like truly), it’s advantage Rafa.
5) Ya think Rafa wants to put a stop to this nonsense of Djokovic beating him all the friggin’ time? YA THINK???!?
Why do I think Djokovic will beat Nadal:
1) Repeat of AO2009, replace Fed with Rafa and Rafa with Djokovic. Adrenaline and history (6 straight wins across all tournaments – from the Mickey Mouse to the Masters 1000 to the Slams) says he will.
2) He’s gotta be supremely confident he can do it, 5-setter semis or not. He played a 5-setter against Fed in USO last year. Didn’t affect him.
3) He beat Rafa 6 times last year. On all surfaces. Obviously knows how to beat him.
4) I think there’s something about Australian Open that brings out the best in him. It’s where he won his first Slam, and since he won last year, I’ve been seeing a certain kind of edge and confidence this year that seemed to suggest he couldn’t lose (but then again, my gut feelings are often lame and wrong).
5) He’s not the same player he was, mentally and physically, as proven yesterday. He’ll hang with Rafa. Hang like a barnacle and may just pull it off towards the end.
6) Ya think he wants to keep Rafa as his bunny, and therefore have a VERY REAL shot at Djokovic Slam at RG – especially if Fed ends up on Rafa’s half again? YA THINK?!!?!?
Well, I hope we’re in for a good match tomorrow and not a total snooze-fest like last year. However I’m not nearly big enough to say I’ll be truly happy for whoever that ends up winning because frankly, I kinda couldn’t care less. #sourgrapes #bitter #smallperson #sosueme
But I’ll say this: May the best man win, and may he be truly deserving.
(And Federer’s pants are still the hottest.)
P.S. don’t forget to read Matt’s excellent write up on the Djokovic/Murray semi-final.