Category Archives: Novak Djokovic

London calling! It’s Nadal v. Djokovic for No. 1

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If you follow the ATP Tour of men’s tennis, then you’ll know that this week is important. The venue is England. The players number only eight. It’s the season-ending finale called the ATP World Tour Finals. Many refer to this as the “fifth Grand Slam of tennis” that’s played indoors. It’s being held at the 02 Arena in London — one of the world’s busiest where concerts rock audiences and sporting events thrill spectators.

By-invitation-only, the world’s top eight are joining. Minus hometown boy Andy Murray, who’s recovering from back surgery, the likes of Wawrinka, Gasquet, Ferrer and Berdych join the popular names of Del Potro, Federer, Djokovic and Nadal.

Instead of a knock-out format like in all others (you lose one and you’re out), this week it’s round-robin play. Two groups of four are divided; the top two of each bracket advance to the semifinals.

One million six hundred thousand dollars awaits the undefeated champion. And, for the non-winners, even if you lose every single match, you’re still richer, just by showing up, by $120,000. Not bad.

The sub-plot of this mega-event is the battle for the title, “2013 World Tennis Champion.” Will it be Rafa or Novak? Last night at 10 p.m. (Phil. time), Rafa played Stan Wawrinka. If the Spaniard won, he would have clinched the year-end No. 1 spot. If he lost, Novak still has a chance.

images-1For Roger Federer fans, it’s not game-over yet for the 32-year-old Dubai resident. Though he’s amassed nearly $80 million in prize money and owns most of tennis’ records (17 slams and 302 weeks as No. 1), he’s only been victorious in one tournament this entire 2013 (Halle, on grass, in June). This is embarrassing for The Great One who’s garnered 77 total tournament career wins. Can he win one more Grand Slam title? I’m unsure. His best prospect is Wimbledon, where he’s won seven, but basing on his result this year (he crashed out in the second round), it doesn’t look good for RF.

What’s working for Federer is his good health. Unlike the injury-plagued (and five years younger) Nadal, the Swiss has hardly ever been injured. He stretches. He doesn’t grunt and grind and exert as much physically as Rafa. And as long as the cute twin girls, Myla Rose and Charlene Riva, don’t pester their dad too much, Roger is expected to play for three or more Novembers.

With Nadal, what a comeback year. Out for seven months under rehabilitation, his rejuvenated and second-hand/good-as-new body wins 10 tournaments this 2013, including the French Open (which he forever owns) and the U.S. Open. Can he add the only missing piece in his storied life story, the ATP World Tour Finals, which he’s never won before?

406068Xisca Perello with Rafa

“Last year was a big miss for me,” Nadal said. “Even if I was not able to play my best a lot of times here, I really have great feelings every time I have the chance to play in this stadium.”

Will he emerge as champion this Sunday? We’ll see. But the way Djokovic has been playing of late — winning Beijing, Shanghai and Paris; 18 undefeated matches so far — I’m rooting for (though I’ve never been a huge fan of) the Serb.

On the topic of indoor tennis, I like it. If you watched the Paris Indoors last week, you’ll see the difference. Lights are dimmed. Loud music pumps the hearts of the fans. Smoke machines fumigate harmless excitement. Laser lights dance as the players prance. Unlike the sunny/sweaty drip of the outdoors, indoor tennis is cool, concert-like, captivating.

urlSpeaking of ticket prices, I checked the website and they range from P1,600 to P4,800. In the finals, it shoots up to P7,000 — but they’re sold out. That’s in London.

To us here in Cebu, the best thing is called HD TV. That’s High Definition. If you’re subsribed to it (mine’s on SkyCable; channel 702), then I need not explain further. As the saying goes, “It’s best seen, not explained.” If you love sports and can spend a little bit more on home entertainment, go HD.

Can David beat Goliath in Paris?

It’s David vs. Goliath in today’s Men’s Final of the French Open.

David Ferrer, in his first-ever Grand Slam final, will be facing a fellow Spaniard who’s called the King of Paris. Rafael Nadal, since he started playing in Roland Garros, has amassed a record that screams, “That’s Impossible!”

Nadal has played 59 times on the red clay of the French Open and has a 58-1 record. ‘Unbelievable’ is an understatement. He’s won seven titles there (apart from similar crazy-to-believe records/titles: eight of nine in Barcelona, seven of nine in Rome and eight of 10 in Monte Carlo).

Sorry to all fans of the underdogs: this dogged retriever named David (Ferrer) won’t beat Nadal tonight in the final. (Head to head, Nadal has won 19 and lost only 4 to Ferrer.)

The semi-finals between Nadal and Novak Djokovic? Wow! From 7 P.M. until 12 midnight last Friday (PHL time), I hope you stayed home to watch it. (I’m in Bacolod and, despite the cravings of all the good eateries here, we sprinted back to watch it from our Sugarland Hotel room.)

To those of us who saw the game, it was one of the best ever matches our eyes have witnessed. It had everything. A 7-time champion versus a contender who had never before won the Grand Slam of France. It was Spain vs. Serbia. It was lefty against right-hander. It was between a bandana-wearing Nike endorser versus a white-cap-wearing of Uniqlo.

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(Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images)

For a set and a half, Nadal was unstoppable. He won the first set, 6-4, and led the second, up a break, 3-2. That’s when Djokovic — one of the most resilient fighters in sports today — would not give Nadal a straight-sets victory. He won the next four games to snatch the second set, 6-3. It was one-set apiece.

The third set was puzzling. After gaining the momentum with his 2nd set win, Novak collapsed. His body did. He was so tired that he committed error after easy error. For the fittest tennis player on earth, I couldn’t understand why he had gotten so tired. He almost lost 6-0 but salvaged a game to lose the third set, 6-1.
In the fourth set, everybody who watched thought the match was over. With Djokovic tired and Nadal still bouncing and sprinting and repeatedly scratching his behind, it would be a straightforward 4-set win for Spain. But, no; ever the combatant, Novak wouldn’t yield the fight. He wanted war.

At 5-all in the fourth set, Nadal broke Djokovic’s serve to lead 6-5. At that point, Balls TV started to show what was coming next: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer. They devoted footages on the two (next to play) semi-finalists. It was only a question of a few minutes left before they would be next.

But, wait. I’m the world No.1, Novak screamed. I won’t yield. Not yet! Despite a 30-15 lead, Nadal was broken. The match was 6-all and a tiebreaker ensued. Nadal lost.

This heightened the drama. Another epic, titanic, here-we-go-to-another-four-hour-long drama was unfolding. To Nadal fans, ouch! What another wasted moment. Was this to be another Australian Open heart-breaker, when Nadal was sure to win — only for Novak to win in five hours, 53 minutes?

And Djokovic — previously looking pale — he was back to life. He had his second, third, fourth wind. He was going for the win.

In the fifth set’s first game, Nadal lost. Djokovic moved ahead to 2-0. Oh no, Nadal fans — like Bobby Lozada and Ernie Delco — would cringe. Novak led, 3-1. Despite trying so hard, Rafa couldn’t break the serve. It moved on to 4-2, Novak leading in the fifth set, with only two more service games to go.

That’s when Rafa leveled the match and it continued on and on.. Serving first, Rafa had an advantage. He led, 5-4. Then, 6-5. Next, 7-6. At 8-7, that’s when Novak’s tired body — and Nadal’s winners — resurfaced.

Finally, after 4 hours and 37 minutes, Rafa won. The funny part is, that wasn’t it. That wasn’t the final yet. But, Rafa fans, don’t worry. The coronation was only delayed by 48 hours. Later tonight, the crowning of the trophy will transpire. A Spaniard from Mallorca will slay David and be crowned the King of France.

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Roland Garros

The French Open has started. The only Grand Slam event whose surface (clay-court) is similar to most of our tennis rectangles here in Cebu, this two-week-long sports meet in romantic Paris will be a business meeting between Novak and Nadal.

For with Rafa, he doesn’t call Roland Garros “my second home;” it’s his personal house. It’s where he lives. Out of the six years that he’s set foot on the red dirt, he’s won five trophies. That’s 38 of 39 matches won. He is so good, so unbeatable, so assured of victory that I declare… The 2011 winner is…

Djokovic!!! No joke. If the two meet next Sunday, I’d place my bet on the Serb. Why? Because, if he reaches the final, Djokovic will automatically become world No. 1. With that added confidence-booster (plus he’s beaten Nadal in the last four finals), he’ll win his first French crown.

If…. Yes. If… Novak does not succumb to the pressure. He’s 37-0 this 2011. “I’m really not trying to think about the run that I have,” he said. “Or I’m not trying to think about when this run will end, because that will mean that I’m thinking about losing.”