I said yesterday that I wouldn't write about the possibility of a Fedal final for fear of epic jinxage. Well, that seems to have worked out well, as I got my Fedal final. Both boys came through in three tight sets apiece.
And here we are. Exactly a year since they last played, in the match that really defined the rest of the year for both players.
Is it any wonder I'm f^&*ing terrified?
I don't want to put too much weight on this match - not least of all for my own sanity. If you look at the Rome final in 2006, that was absolutely momentous for both players. The course of tennis history might be quite different if Roger Federer had capitalised on one of his two championship points in that match. But it was Rafa that came out the victor and became the Clay Domination Machine that he was for the next few seasons. That was a key match.
Some matches seem like key matches at the time, but don't turn out to be quite as portentous as one might have initially imagined. Yes, Australian Open final 2009, I'm looking at you. But then sometimes a whole tournament can pretty much punch you in the face with its significance in hindsight, when there is no way you could have ever known how much it would mean.
Madrid 2009 shaped the future of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. Djokovic, after an excellent clay season, was finally broken by Nadal in that epic semi final. But that match took a whole lot of juice out of Nadal - and he didn't have a lot of juice left to give. He lost the final - and Federer won it. And that win - especially after he came out and said that he expected to win the tournament - well, that win set him up to take the crown at Roland Garros.
Roger Federer. Rafael Nadal. Two of the greatest champions our sport has ever seen. They have not played since the final of this tournament one year ago.
But circumstances were different then. Rafa was exhausted (partly because he had won every single clay match in the last, well, ever) and Roger was hungry and maybe even a little bit more different. Now Rafa is fresher and Roger has - well, how much does he have left to prove?
That whole proof thing might be enough to make another man complacent, but we know that's not the way one Roger Federer rolls. And how has the Roger/Rafa dynamic changed in their year apart?
This match might not turn out to be significant at all. These two have played about twenty matches in the past, and not every single one of those matches has turned out to be world changing. But a lot of them have. Rome 2006. Wimbledon 2008. Madrid 2009. Just to name a few.
Two men enter, one man leaves. Roland Garros awaits in one week - the citadel that King Roger currently occupies and that Rafa the conquistador desperately wants to reclaim. This might be considered a preview, a match where they suss each other out, each vying for dominance but not quite committing yet.
It might not be an important match. But let's just say this - I wouldn't put money on it being of little signficance. Not one cent.
Roger: older and not quite out
6 months ago