Tuesday, June 18, 2013

McEnroe: Nadal-Djokovic Was the Best Clay-Court Match I've Seen

(June 18, 2013)--Speaking via telephone on an ESPN conference call, John McEnroe confirmed my belief about Rafael Nadal's thrilling 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7(3), 9-7 semifinal victory over Novak Djokovic at the French Open. McEnroe thinks it's the best match he's ever seen on clay.

"I think it gives you an idea of how determined and well Djokovic was that he put himself in a position to be up 4-3 in the fifth on a pretty hot day," said McEnroe, while fielding a question about Nadal on clay, "[to] be that close to winning, five points from winning the match. To me that was the greatest clay court match I've ever seen."

I had pegged it as the best men's match at a Grand Slam since the Wimbledon final in 2008. About a week later, while ruminating on the five hour and fifty-three minute 2012 Australian Open final between Nadal and Djokovic, and a few other classics that have occurred in recent years, I was beginning to change my mind. Maybe I was getting carried away, letting my own personal feelings about the match get in the way of objectivity? Now that I know McEnroe's on board, I'm sticking with my guns.

Certainly the tennis was sublime, and the fact that the match ended up being a semifinal instead of a final due to the luck of the draw should have no bearing on how history views this classic. What we should remember is how much was at stake: Nadal, gunning for immortality on clay, and Djokovic, bidding to win his first French Open in the most dramatic scenario imaginable, against the best clay-courter in the game's history.