Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in Madrid: A War of Attrition Between Two Warriors

I do not use the above title loosely.

Yes, we are all aware that Rafael Nadal has a virility only present in the fiercest and most determined of men. Yet to use this noun for Novak Djokovic is something else altogether.  

The first of the Madrid Masters 1000 semifinals was always going to be special. Nadal and Djokovic have already met in the past two clay court masters events finals this year; and each time, despite valiant efforts from Djokovic, Nadal ultimately dominated the meetings.  

This time, however, a change was in the air. 

From Nadal’s discontent prior to the start of the tournament to Djokovic riding high from his hometown win at last week’s Serbian Open, not to mention the recent previous Masters events meetings and their results, tensions were running underground, ready to bubble over at the first hint of an important battle.  

And so a battle it became.  As soon as Djokovic broke Nadal’s service game at the very start of the first set to go 3-0 up, one knew that we were in for a match of epic proportions. 

Shades of the Hamburg Masters Semifinal in 2008, if you will. Add to the mix the clear bias of the 12,000 strong Madrid crowd and this match turned into something else altogether.

Tennis out of this world. Shot after shot. Rally after rally after sustained rally. Each and every exchange lasted for an average of over ten shots. Some games continued for 15 minutes. The second set lasted 97 minutes alone. Match points saved in the most sensational of fashions.  

Giant proportions for a great match with gargantuan meaning.  

Bringing out the very best in each other, the shots were equalled and surpassed as time went on, as legs cramped and hearts pounded and souls ached. 

Rare displays on emotions punctuated Nadal’s increasing number of unforced errors; Djokovic, ever the showman, continued to illustrate his torment and exhaustion. The result could only be separated in a final set tiebreak, the ultimate showdown.  

Over 4 hours. 3-6, 7-6, 7-6; 11-9 in the final tiebreak. Winner: Nadal.  

Who would have thought otherwise??  

There hasn’t been much excitement or drama from the matches played in Madrid this week. The Box has been somewhat subdued. However perhaps this first epic in the new Caja Magica will bring good luck for the tournament forthwith.   

What to expect from tomorrow’s final?  Who knows.  Knowing Nadal, he won’t be tired at all.  What does this mean for the fast-approaching French Open?  In the broad scheme of things, probably not that much. 

Phillipe Chatrier court, best of 5 sets and 7 matches over 2 weeks still concocts a lethal combination for all of Nadal’s brave opponents. 

Nevertheless it is true to say that certainly, Nadal’s autocracy of his clay kingdom just got a lot more interesting.

(Published on Bleacher Report; 16th May 2009)


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