Nole, Rafa, Nole’s Girlfriend and Vlade Divac!

January 30, 2012 in Best Of, Sport, Tennis

Greatest.  Tennis.  Match.  Ever.

As a new father I have about 10 minutes to spare, so I’m going to blog about what’s been on my mind — last night’s EPIC Aussie Open Final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.  The two fighters went toe-to-toe like to heavyweight sluggers, absorbing killer blow after killer blow in the longest grand slam final and longest Aussie Open game of all time.

The Djoker came out on top in the end, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, but Rafa’s valiant efforts won him a lot of fans.  It was a see-sawing battle that shifted momentum numerous times.  Just when I thought Rafa was finally going to get over the hump against Nole, Nole fights back to dominate.  And just when a Nole victory looked like a mere formality, back comes Rafa.  Then there was the brief rain delay which I thought was going to kill Rafa’s momentum, but it only made him stronger.  And when it looked like Rafa was going to put it away, back comes Nole again to steal the match from the grasp of defeat.  I had no favourite in the match, so I was just glad to be a witness.

Everyone’s talking about this fantastic tennis match, so instead of my usual waffle I’ll just toss in some random thoughts:

  • Let’s face it, Nole’s girlfriend, Jelena Ristic, was one of the main reasons so many millions of people stayed up watching the match last night all the way until the end.  It certainly was the reason why my blog (which wrote briefly about her once), got so many hits overnight.  It was hard not to notice her — the freaking camera zoomed in on her on every single break in the action!  Kudos to the television crew for knowing what sells.  Nole’s victory is even more amazing considering how difficult it would have been for him to focus on tennis with her around.
  • That said, message to the TV crew for next year — go easy on the super slow-mo.  Super slow-mo on Jelena Ristic jumping up and down is fine, but super slow-mo on Djoker’s and Rafa’s faces as they crack massive forehands?  Not so much.
  • Speaking of Jelena, she seems to have embraced the role as tennis’s no. 1 WAG.  She always seems to wear cobalt blue, except the dresses are getting more and more expensive.  I wonder if she has clothing sponsors.
  • Huge surprise last night as I was watching the match.  On the odd occasion the camera panned away from Jelena, it landed on a bearded giant behind her that made me do a double-take.  Was that the biggest flopper of all-time, Mr Vlade Divac?  As it turned out, it was.  I have no idea why the retired basketball superstar was in Djokovic’s camp.  These Serbian athletes must be real close.  Maybe Nole learned some of his flopping mental tactics from Divac.

The big dude on the left

  • What the heck was the deal with the rain delay?  Seriously, the thing has a roof.  It looks like it might rain.  Why take the risk?  And how laughably primitive was the ball-boy brigade that wiped down the court on their hands and knees?  You would have thought someone (probably Japanese) would have come up with an ingenious contraption to suck all that moisture up in a jiffy.
  • Excellent post-match speeches at the award-ceremony too.  Rafa was awesome in defeat and super gracious, and the usually amped up Nole was also very kind with his words — both men were probably too tired to do much else.  Seeing them handed bottles of water and stools to sit on while that hilarious Korean (?) fella from KIA Motors rambled on said it all.  Then again, I felt like I needed to lie down after listening to that guy too.
  • Lastly, I just want to reiterate what a pleasure it was to watch the match.  These dudes are physical freaks.  How can someone crack the ball with so much force while running all over the court for almost 6 hours?  That’s just mind-boggling.  Especially for someone with bread stick arms like the Djoker.  I get a sore wrist from three consecutive two-handed backhands.

Djokovic downs Nadal in 2011 US Open Final!

September 13, 2011 in Sport, Tennis

The current undisputed king of tennis, Novak Djokovic

I want to work on a few other posts I have lined up, but the tennis news just keeps flooding in.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, or the Djoker or Nole, or whatever you want to call him, just overcame Rafael Nadal to win the 2011 US Open title, 6-2, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1.  It was a fantastic final with lots of long rallies, running all over the court, and plenty of spectacular shots.  Nadal fought valiantly to bring the third set into a tie-breaker, which he won comfortably, 7-3, but the fourth set was a total annihilation.  This is the Djoker’s first US Open title following two previous finals losses, including last year’s final to Nadal.

The win continues a memorable run for Djokovic, who also captured his second Australian Open and first Wimbledon title and made the French Open semifinals this year.  For the season, he now has 10 titles and a 64-2 record, which gives him a remarkable 0.969 winning percentage, and if he does not lose again this year, will finish with the best single season winning percentage of all time (currently held by John McEnroe, who went 82-3 in 1984 for a 0.965 winning percentage).  Unbelievable.

Some people dislike Novak for his seemingly cocky demeanour, but I like the guy.  I think he brings a bit of spice to the game, which has been dominated for far too long by ‘nice guys’ like Federer and Nadal.  That said, I also like Rafa too, so I wasn’t going for anyone in particular in these finals.

I love how unpredictable tennis has been lately.  I remember when Nadal captured the French, Wimbledon and US Open last year and it appeared he was on the fast track to catching up to a sliding Roger Federer, or at least getting close enough to make the GOAT discussion even more interesting.

Then Djokovic suddenly takes his fitness and mental aspect of his game to a whole new level and becomes an absolutely unstoppable killer on the court.  Djokovic is 6-0 against Nadal this year, all in finals, and probably would have made it 7-0 and a ‘Grand Slam’ if he hadn’t dropped the French Open semi against Federer.  If Djokovic can keep this level of fitness up, there is no reason why he can’t continue this kind of run for at least another year or two and push his Grand Slam total into double figures in a hurry.

With Nadal as Federer’s kryptonite and Djokovic as Nadal’s, we now have a very interesting triangle of power, with Djokovic at the apex.  Now if only Andy Murray can do something — anything — to make it a quadrilateral…

PS: It is clear that Djokovic is also dominating the WAG category in men’s tennis as well.

No Djoke; girlfriend Jelena Ristic at the final