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April 3, 2011

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Sony Ericsson Open 2011, Miami, Florida, USA
April 3, 2011
Editorial by Jane Voigt.


 

Jane Voigt Photo
Jane Voigt

The Fight
 
April 3, 2011 -- Tennis players are like boxers. They fight. They dance around the court, open angles, drive a deep forehand punch, come under the ball and slice the guy's weaker side.
 
For well over three hours this hot and sunny afternoon in South Florida that's exactly what Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal did. They fought and fought until Djokovic threw up his arms in a victorious 'v', 46 63 76(4). The proud Serbian is now 24-0 for the year.
 
His impressive streak of matches includes: the Australian Open, Dubai, the BNP Paribas Open and now the Sony Ericsson Open. Roger Federer was the last man to win back-to-back in Indian Wells (BNP) and Miami, which was 2006.
 
In 2007, Djokovic won his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title in Miami. His Butch Buchholz Championship Trophy, which he proudly raised over his head today, marked his seventh.
 
The final was a winner for fans, too. People were completely drawn into the contest early, after a rat-a-tat-tat exchange at the net in the third game. An awesome roar -- from a record-breaking 14,625 fans -- filled the stadium. But telling which man was the favorite proved impossible.
 
"Ra-fa, Ra-fa," sounded very similar to, "No-lay, No-lay."
 
Nadal's nerves stood out from the start. He was way behind the baseline to receive and return. He seemed to muscle the ball instead of stroke it -- not that that's his style; but, he usually contacts the ball farther in front of him than he did today.
 
All in all, Nadal attributed his loss to his inconsistent serve, being tired, and being nervous. He said he played well, but not as well as he'd played earlier in the week.
 
"He's playing with confidence," Nadal began. "When you're winning, it's easier to keep winning. But, I was there fighting until the last point."
 
Nerves or no nerves, Nadal struck first. And he struck second, having a robust lead in the first set: 5-2.
 
But during that seventh game, Nadal's behavior took a turn.
 
He seemed flat, spiritless. His upbeat demeanor faded, his head fell forward as if discouraged. Nadal is well known for playing every point like it's match point. But in the seventh game, he let balls fly by with nary a jab or lunge. Why should he be discouraged? He was a game from the first set. Win one more set and the championship would be his -- his first Miami title and 19th Masters Shield.
 
"Was very very hot outside there today," Nadal said. "I sweat crazy, like ten t-shirts today. So I was very tired at the end. But if I am tired, the other one must be tired, too. The hot and the sun is for both of us."
 
"Both of us were slowing down toward the end of the match," Djokovic said. "It was a physical struggle, but I knew I needed to hold on, to hold my serve, try to get to the tiebreak.
 
On other points in the match Nadal shanked forehands a la Federer. Although his first serve failed him, his second serve was strong. He won 71% of those points, many of them on the ad side with a twisty, lefty slice corker. Muy effective.
 
Big finals like this one usually come down to mental toughness. Novak was the stronger man in that critical department. He wasn't always like that. Djokovic's emotions would disrupt his attention and interfere with his results.
 
That's gone.
 
His greatest improvement is his serve, which is well established now. His ability to move from one point to another and not drag emotional junk with him is his second greatest game improvement.
 
"That makes my success even bigger," Djokovic began. "He and Roger are extremely mentally tough players. They don't give a lot of free points. To be able to win a such a close match against somebody that's strong mentally and physically as Nadal is a great achievement."
 
One huge question now surrounds these two players -- can Djokovic overtake Nadal as the number one player in the world? Will it come before Wimbledon? The clay court season belongs to Nadal and it starts in another week in Monte Carlo.
 
Djokovic has never beaten King Rafa in nine encounters on the red clay.
 
"I think I have the game to challenge him on that surface," Djokovic began. "It's a couple points here and there that decide a winner. If you want to win against him you got to step in, believe, and play your game."
 
Last year, Rafael Nadal won an unprecedented string of titles after the American hard-court season closed: Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, Paris, Wimbledon and the U. S. Open.
 
"I'm going to prepare. I'm going to start to practice on clay," Nadal said. "I'm going to try my best for the seventh [title in Monte Carlo], but it's very difficult. Hopefully, I going to be playing well."
 
There is obviously a new kid on the tennis block. Move him off a hard court and can he continue to produce? We will all be watching. The tri-valry between Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer is a fabulous story for the world to watch. When you look at the hard-cold results, though, Novak Djokovic might just end up on top. It could happen soon, too.
 
"I think he's going to be number one," Nadal said, thoughtfully. "That's part of sport. We will see at the end of the season who's number one, who's number two, and who is number 20. That's tennis."
 
And that's why we love tennis. It dances with the punches and we like the beat.
 

 

 
[2] Novak Djokovic (SRB) d [1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) {green shirt} 46 63 76(4)
 
Novak Djokovic 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Tennis Fan 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic Rafael Nadal 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic Rafael Nadal 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Tennis

 
Earlier Columns from this Event:
 
April 2, 2011 Sony Ericsson Open: Azarenka wins SEO - Azarenka, Sharapova
April 1, 2011 Sony Ericsson Open: Final Four In Miami - Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Fish
March 31, 2011 Sony Ericsson Open: Don't Mess With Maria; Federer Into Semifinals - Sharapova, Petkovic, Nadal, Berdych, Federer, Simon
March 30, 2011 Sony Ericsson Open: Live or Electronic - Fish, Ferrer, Azarenka, Clijsters, Djokovic, Anderson, Zvonareva, Radwanska
March 29, 2011 Sony Ericsson Open: Coming Up, Coming Back
March 28, 2011 Sony Ericsson Open: The Grand Slam of South America
March 27, 2011 Sony Ericsson Open: Is Bigger Better?
 

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