Saturday, July 2, 2011

Proving Time for Djokovic and Nadal

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will meet in a heavily anticipated Wimbledon final on Sunday. Get your popcorn ready.

The 2011 French Open, just four weeks ago, offered us many inspiring moments, but there was one thing it lacked: Rafael Nadal didn't get a chance to face his new arch nemesis, Novak Djokovic, in a battle to the death in the final. While I was thrilled for Federer when he engineered his magical run in Paris, part of me was devastated not to see what I had built up in my mind as the final to end all finals.

I couldn't stop drooling over it: The transcendent Djokovic, suddenly Nadal's kryptonite for four consecutive matches, playing with a chance to tie Guillermo Vilas for the longest men's winning streak of all-time; the hell-bent Nadal looking to claim his sixth French Open title, committed also to ending Djokovic's temporary reign over him.

It was sure to be an epic battle on many levels. You could feel the axis of tennis shifting, but you also knew in your heart that Nadal wasn't going to go down without an epic fight. Maybe he wouldn't go down at all. But it didn't seem out of the question anymore, thanks to Djokovic's stellar form.

Who would prevail? Nadal, the eminent clay court player, now subdued, doubting his game, or Djokovic, surfing the clouds, confident, committed, and possessing renewed faith and vigor?

Then Fabio Fognini withdrew from his French Open quarter-final, making it impossible for Djokovic to get his 46th win in the final. Next, Federer gave the Serb a whooping and the planet shifted back on its axis.

Is it ready to shift again?

Here we are at Wimbledon, and these two tennis titans are about to lock horns in their first Grand Slam final since all this Kryptonite talk began.

A lot has changed in the four weeks since the French -- Djokovic's streak went up in smoke and Nadal's fire is burning brightly again. The Spaniard didn't beat Djokovic in the final in Paris, but in Djokovic's loss to Federer he saw that he was human - he could lose. Since then Nadal's Wimbledon winning streak has grown to 20 matches, and he's been unrelenting throughout the fortnight.

Djokovic, while not as graceful on grass as he is on clay, appears ready for the challenge of Nadal nonetheless.

There is much to prove in this final for each, and the high stakes will certainly add to the intrigue. Nadal can win his third French-Wimbledon double (tying Borg) and his 11th Grand Slam (tying Laver and Borg). Djokovic can bag his most coveted title at Wimbledon and put a fat stamp of approval on his fresh No. 1 ranking.

However it turns out, tennis fans should be pleased. In 2011, Djokovic and Nadal is the meal and all other matches are the appetizer.

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