Tuesday, 31 January, 2012

Not quite number one

Being unemployed brings with it, its own benefits, one of which is catching matches in the afternoon (another other being, you grow tired of being lazy and start excavating your own blog!). I was treated to an amazing Australian open which saw Leander Paes beat the Bryan brothers, with Radek Stepanek. It was a complete mauling and I enjoyed every minute of it! The women's event yielded yet another world number one, but hey, atleast she has a grand slam to her credit (she played excellent tennis, no doubting that!).

But then, the men's semi final is what everyone seems to be counting down to these days. The big 4 of men's tennis find themselves lugging it out with each other to get the opportunity to win/lose the final in pretty much every tournament they choose to take seriously. Nadal and Djokovic have monopolised the slams over the past 2 years, winning 8 slams consecutively between them! A friend pointed me to this post - http://goo.gl/gCpQQ . It's a prosaic romanticization of Nadal's perpetuity at number 2. First it was the man whom tennis should be grateful to for having graced the game, and now, is the indomitable Serb who has taken his game to entirely different levels over the past 13 months!

I remember writing a post about Nadal about three and a half years back (http://goo.gl/qRc8J). As I read it again, I see that while Nadal has improved multiple aspects of his game and is truly a beast on court, much of it remains the same. It must be said that the Nadal serve is now a force to reckon with, and his volleying is employed to more lethal effect. Still, in terms of raw tennis ability, he is definitely overshadowed by his technically brilliant peers. While Murray just refuses to win a slam, his semi final against Djokovic was definitely the best match of the tournament, as he brought out the best in the champion, with tennis of the most brilliant kind. However, what Nadal lacks in finesse and technique, he more than makes up for it by his monstrous athleticism. Federer comfortably dispatches opposition of any kind with his almost casual dismissal of the tennis ball to any corner of the court he pleases. But with Nadal prowling the lines on the other side of the net, every one of those shots are chased down and hit back with tons of venom, leaving Federer out of ideas to match the Spaniard's physical strength.

Nadal is a player I've come to respect over the years. I can hardly think of anyone who has established a reign of invincibility over a particular surface (ok Pete and the greens of Wimbledon :) ). His doggedness in going 100% to attempt a shot many wouldn't even bother moving for, is unnerving. What is scarier is, he can just go on and on for hours on end retrieving the ball, never relenting, never tiring, a true bull indeed. Nadal has his moments of magic, the opened up forehand winner whizzing past hapless opponents, the booming backhand down the line, the occasional drop and neatly executed volley. But I would think his superhuman athleticism has been the reason for him being a strong contender for every single title, more than anything else. Viewed in that light, is he probably the greatest ever world no. 2, the ever present nemesis to anyone who dares challenge for a title? Arguably so, I would think.

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