Reflections on Nadal v Djokovic Wimbledon Final
Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, pitted
the two top ranked players in the world in an eagerly awaited contest.
In terms of tennis theatre, some might have wished to see a repeat of
the titanic struggles between Nadal and Federer, but this was not to be. Djokovic , never before a Wimbledon winner
and the ‘new kid on the block’, was determined to assert his claim to the
premier world title. In the end, he did
not disappoint, winning against a below par Nadal in a decisive four sets.
victory cemented his position as the new world No. 1. It also gave a well-needed boost to Serbian
national self-esteem, a country in need of some positive publicity. Winning Wimbledon is every serious player’s
dream, but in Djokovic’s interview after the final, you could see how much it
had been a dream of his ever since his youth.
aspect of the final was how it had cemented even further current European
dominance in the men’s game. The last
time a non-European won the Men’s Final was Leyton Hewitt in 2002. Of the four 2011 semi-finalists, all were
European. Europeans regularly dominate
the remaining four majors and the ATP tour as a whole. As John McEnroe said during Wimbledon, there
is nobody in the wings of US tennis poised to take over the mantle of Andy
Roddick. The decline in the US game is a
particular surprise, given the key role of college scholarships and the US
academies. Equally, there is no star
prospect on the horizon in that other former bastion of world tennis,
Is that a
worrying problem for world tennis or is it just one of those inevitable facts
of life? Maybe, the balance of power in
world tennis has simply shifted to the European continent for the time
being. The 1950’s and 1960’s were the
decades of the Australians, the 1970’s a combination of the Americans and the
Europeans and the 1980’s and 1990’s mainly a period of American dominance. On the merryground of life, maybe it is
simply the Europeans’ turn again. The
important question, however, is whether this shift is a temporary or permanent
one. Many reasons account for this
resurgence in Europe, not least the inter-generational imitative effect
deriving from the many outstanding European players of the recent past. The key role of Borg, Lendl, Wilander,
Becker, Edberg, Federer, Nadal to name the most illustrious, has been
well-documented. Stars like Navaratilova
and Graff in the women’s game also played huge roles.
In terms of the Wimbledon Final itself,
Djokovic asserted control early on which, despite losing the third set to
Nadal, he never lost for most of the match.
Djokovic dictated the pace of the game, while Nadal was playing an
essentially reactive game in response to this dominance.
players provided a sharp contrast. Nadal
has an open and friendly demeanour, while Djokovic, at least on court, comes
across as a little robotic and dour (his acolytes would probably say,
‘focused’!). Where Djokovic loses out in
terms of persona and rapport with the crowd, he more than makes up in being a
ruthless exponent of tennis technique and speed around the court. Djokovic’s more human side came out,
however, in post-match interviews. Nadal
certainly had the heart of the crowd, but the fair-minded Wimbledon fans gave
Djokovic full credit on his successful points.
Nadal, oozing charisma, was gracious as always in defeat. The behaviour
and attitudes of both players in the 2011 Final were a great advertisement for
the game worldwide.
Final highlighted the important component of emotion in the game. Emotion obviously plays a big part among the
crowd and among the competing players.
Being able to keep it in check is a hallmark of all top players, but for
the crowd, emotion is their bread and butter.
Over the years, Wimbledon crowds have been affected at an emotional
level by the likes of Maria Bueno, Evonne Goolagong, Ilie Nastase, Virginia
Wade, Henman and Murray and by the Borg/McEnroe and Sampras/Agassi contests,
among others. All these players struck
an emotional chord with the crowd and among TV viewers. There is, at times, an unfortunate element of
the ‘Romans and the lions in the Coliseum’, but emotion justifiably plays a big
part in the life of Wimbledon.
2011 highlighted a number of key aspects of the current men’s game. Continuity and change were both
evident. Europe remains dominant,
Djokovic scaled a vital hurdle in his career, Nadal has a feisty future
adversary and some questions are being
raised over Federer’s hunger for the game.
All in all, the men’s game is in fairly good shape, but the Americans
and Aussies should be focusing seriously on future development at home.
Date published :
12 Jul 2011 - 18:46:30