Saturday, December 11, 2010

Looking Back - Roland Garros

This tournament, I would argue, is when the real Jonah Day of the Federer fans in 2010 began (ending sometime after Wimbledon). It was always going to be a sad day when that semi final record went down. 23 major semi finals in a row. I would venture that that is one record that is never, ever going to be beaten.

It was Robin Soderling that did the damage, and in a strange way, this tournament belongs almost as much to him as it did to Rafa, even though Rafa absolutely routed him in the final. (We have had heinously boring Slam finals this year. I mean, I loved the one in Australia, but there's only been one that went more than three sets, yesno?) He became the man who not only broke That Record, and not only had victories over both Federer and Nadal at Roland Garros to his name, he proved that he was not a one Slam wonder. Robin Soderling can and will challenge for Slams, especially at Roland Garros. Count on it.

There was another dude who came out swinging and really made an impact at Roland Garros this year - well, I certainly stood up and took notice of him. That dude is Jurgen Melzer. He had an amazing year, and the semi final finish at Roland Garros is the crowning glory. Sure, he went down to Rafa - but who isn't going to go down to Rafa at Roland Garros? - but he had an absolutely amazing tournament full of big wins. He was preciously close to making the cut for the World Tour Finals, and if he keeps up his standards next year, I think that he just might. He'll have a ton of points to defend, but so what? If he can defend them - and improve on them - Jurgen Melzer is going places.

The other semi finalist was Tomas Berdych. In hindsight, that is dreadfully portentous.

But there is an elephant in the room. And his name is Rafa Nadal.

Rafa Nadal, who everyone had talked about as down and out a few months earlier. Rafa Nadal, who had not won a title in eleven months when he took the title in Monte Carlo - the first of what was to be a claycourt clean sweep, ending with his reclamation of the Coupe des Mousquetaires. Rafa Nadal, who pulverised his opponents into submission. Rafa Nadal, who became world number #1, and who never looked back.

Rafa Nadal, who deserves every bit of praise we can heap upon his head.

Rafa doesn't inspire the same poetry and awe that Roger does. I don't know if anyone will ever call watching him play a religious experience. But that does not make him any less great. He's not that guy. He's the conquistador, the raging bull, an almost elemental force of nature. And we have been privileged to watch him play this year.

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