Sunday, May 18, 2008

The battle for second place

You’d think that the prize at stake between Nadal and Djokovic was the Number 1 spot. They battled for over three hours in Hamburg today. The result was by far one of the best tennis matches I have ever seen.

Both men came out fighting, each determined to conquer the other. That Nadal won had as much to do with luck and chance as it did with high-level aggressive tennis. I was enthralled.

At stake was the spot for the Number 2 in the world. If Djokovic had won, he would have replaced Nadal in that spot. Both men gave it their all. They knew that it did not matter who faced Federer in the finals the following day. Beating or losing to Federer would not change the price of coffee. But ascending to Number 2 just might.

In tennis, number 2 is a big deal. Just ask Maria Sharapova. After months of languishing in the Number 2 berth, overnight Maria found herself promoted to Number 1 after Justine Henin decided that she was through with fulfilling childish dreams of tennis success.

You can go to sleep as Number 2 but wake up as Number 1. Both Nadal and Djokovic seemed aware of this. The result was a spectacular tennis match that was truly deserving of any final. Anything produced against Federer in the actual final will be anticlimactic.

Nadal won the match 7-5 2-6 6-2. But the score does little to capture Djokovic’s fight and determination.

Djokovic came into this semi-finals with terrific confidence. He had won the Australian Open, and came into Hamburg with only 310 points separating him from Nadal. A win against Nadal would have erased that discrepancy. It was clear that Djokovic knew this. Problem was, so did Nadal, who finally managed to close out the match on his fifth match point. It was an amazing match that deserves to become an instant classic.

Nadal has been playing second fiddle to Federer for the past 147 weeks. He was clearly not about to be demoted to third place. He has also never lost to Djokovic on clay. There was a lot of pride at stake.

Djokovic on the other hand, made it clear that he is a serious threat to both Numbers 1 and 2. He is only marking time in the third berth. He is certainly no slouch on clay, but is a force to be reckoned with on all surfaces.

I have no idea who will win Roland Garros. I’d like to believe that it might be a toss-up between Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. But I have to be honest. It seems to be a toss-up between Nadal and Djokovic.

Federer continues to seem as if he is fading fast. Sure he won today in 79 minutes against Seppi, but who the hell is Seppi? And even the unimpressive Seppi ended up having his moments against Federer.

Had Federer faced either Nadal or Djokovic in the semis, no way would he have been capable of producing the kind of scintillating tennis they managed to elicit from each other. No way would he have stood a chance in hell of winning.

As it is, Federer’s best bet is that Nadal and Djokovic exerted so much energy beating up on each other in their spectacular battle for Number 2 that he may have a chance of winning Hamburg tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong, I want him to win. But I am not so deluded a fan that I cannot acknowledge that he has no excuse for losing. And if does end up losing to Nadal [ouch!], no way in hell does he have any chance of winning Roland Garros.

Which all goes to show that sometimes being Number 1 is not all it is cracked up to be. Just ask Justine. She quit the game at Number 1, but she has experienced some spectacular losses so far in 2008. Perhaps she saw the writing on the wall.

Federer is currently Number 1 in the world. But the real story on the men’s tour is the battle for Number 2. More and more, Number 1 is starting to seem like just a figurehead.


Menas is good. said...

Interesting site, do you write about your own tennis playing.

tennischick said...

yes i do. check back in past threads. thanks for dropping by.

TopSpinTennisBlog said...

Hi tennis chick

like the blog! Not seen it before but will definately add to my blog roll.

thanks for your comment re Justine. Like you I wish she just took a sabatical.

And you're so right about yesterday's semi in Hamburg, what a match.

keep on blogging!