Djokovic v Nadal:
Ok I have gathered all the information I can on this one. Pheww! Now to try an make sense of it all.
Djokovic won all their 6 matches in 2011. That isn’ t a fluke. All were finals and the last 2 were the US Open and Wimbledon. In both matches Djokovic went 2-0 up, Nadal took the third set and then Djokovic took the 4th. It isn’t unusual for a favourite who goes 2-0 up in a best of 5 set match to then relax and lose the third.
In a couple of their 2011 matches Nadal took the opening set 6-4, only to lose in 3 sets.
What did Djokovic impove that made his 2011 season possible? Apart from realising that he had a food allergy that was affecting his match fitness he has improved his consistency. Even when he isn’t playing that well its still a surprise when he misses a shot. The other part of his game that has improved is his serve. This was a weak part of hs game prior to 2011 but he has made huge improvements in this area. Against Murray his serve wasn’t great in the second and third sets. Murray was able to get a lot of break points throughout the match but wasn’t able to take advantage. I also noticed that Murray got to 30-0 against serve a large number of times but was pulled back to 30 30 and then Djokovic held.
So why did these improvements bring about 6 straight wins against Nadal? Nadal’s game is all about his forehand. His plan is usually to work the point onto that wing to allow him to make the winner. His backhand is much weaker especially if pushed wide. Right hander Djokovic is exceptionally good at pushing his opponent wide with his own forehand. He seems able to create wider angles than most. Nadal finds this difficult to counteract with his backhand.
Nadal also relies on his opponent being less consistent than him which used to be the case with the “old” Djokovic. Now Nadal often finds himself being rushed by huge ground stroke after huge ground stroke. Look at the Federer semi final. Federer knows that Nadal doesn’t like to be rushed so he started their match at 1000 miles an hour. Nadal had no reply. He just couldn’t cope. Unfortunately Fed couldn’t keep that level up for more than a few games. Djokovic doesn’t quite play at that amazing level but he is able to consistently rush Nadal into making errors.
Nadal is probably playing the best tennis he has for a while. His serve is more effective including his second serve. Even so he is still lacking something. We have seen a little more power in his ground strokes recently. He is reported to be using a heavier racquet in an attempt to get more power. One concern for Nadal backers is that he has started his last 2 matches slowly. He lost the opening sets against Federer and Berdych. Only once has Nadal lost the opening set and won the match ( not counting one occasion when Djokovic retired).
What about the players fitness? Nadal appears to be relatively injury free at the moment which is perhaps one reason for his improved form. Djokovic has had problems with his breathing. Against Murray he was gasping for air even during the opening games. By the time Murray had won the second set Djokovic looked in bad shape. During the third set he was seen to eat something that he clearly didn’t want the world to see as he put a towel over his head. Almost miraculously his health impoved. He had said that in his quarter final he was having difficulty breathing as one side of his nose was blocked. The weather for the final is forcast to be very hot and humid. This isn’t ideal for someone with breathing problems.
Nadal has had an extra day’s rest between semi final and final and Djokovic had a 5 hour five set match wih Murray and also a draining quarter final with Ferrer. That match was over in 3 sets but playing Ferrer is tiring no matter how many sets you play.
As it’s Djokovic’s style of play that gives Nadal problems I don’t see this match being different to their last 2 grand slam finals. Djokovic’s fitness is the only worry but I’m sure he and his team understand his issues well enough to manage them. No doubt he will have more magic chocolate ( or whatever it was) to give him enough of an energy boost to get him through.
The mental battle has already been won by Djokovic. Nadal was asked after his win over Federer what advice he would give to Murray to beat Djokovic. Nadal’s reply was ” to be more aggressive. Although what do I know I lost the last 6 against him.”
Nadal may be able to push it to 5 sets this time but I would expect Djokovic to be trying to get the job done as quickly as possible. If Djokovic is able to take the opening set ( as I think he will ) then Nadal will find it vey difficult to fight back.
Update: That has to be seen as a classic! Djokovic started poorly and his body language was bad. He snapped out of it after a few games but it was Nadal who took the opening set. Djokovic then started to find his form and took the next 2 sets. he fourth was a tight one. At 3-4 Nadal was 3 break points down and Djokovic must have been thinking about serving for the title. Nadal saved all 3 and completed the hold. After a 10 minute delay while the roof was closed due to rain the match moved to a tie break. After a few twists and turns Nadal took it to level at 2 sets all.
In the fifth set Nadal won the first break to lead 4-2. In his own service game at 30-15 he had a relatively simple backhand down the line but he sent it wide. Djokovic took his chance and broke back. At 5-5 Djokovic broke again and served out the match.
A truly fitting match to decide the title.
Djokovic won 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5