Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic To Finals

French Open 2012
By Hiland Doolittle, June 9th, 2012

On a rainy, windy Friday, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the game’s two best players, overcame sluggish performances by David Ferrer and Roger Federer to set the stage for a thrilling final match. At times, the players were bothered by the swirling winds.  The sparse, unenthusiastic crowds have not helped inspire the players and the quality of the tennis has deteriorated to almost unrecognizable performances.

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal to meet Novak Djokovic in the finals of French Open 2012

Against Nadal, who has clearly out performed everyone else, gutsy David Ferrer started well but left the court 106 minutes later a thoroughly humiliating performance. Nadal appears a little too mentally comfortable against his compatriot. Rafa has not lost a set in his six matches.  In his quarterfinal match and semifinal match, the smooth moving Nadal has downed two hot Spanish clay courters, Nicolas Almagro and Ferrer a little too easily.

The crowd tried to rally Ferrer but he had no answers for the bookmaker favorite.  Nadal has served better than any other competitor, has moved fluidly laterally and vertically and has made finishing shots that have left opponents shaking their heads in awe. This fellow is probably the best clay court player of all time.

In his own rite, Ferrer is no slouch. His 2012 won lost record now stands at 38-8.  He has won 3 ATP titles and more than $1,238,800 this season. He pushed 4th seed Andy Murray around the court for nearly four hours in his quarterfinal and ended the downtrodden Murray’s string of five straight Grand Slam semifinals.

Nadal broke Ferrer an astonishing 7 times and was never broken in the methodical 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 drubbing. Rafa left no doubt who is the favorite to win the crown.

Of course, top seed and top ranked Novak Djokovic is a formidable obstacle that stands in Rafa’s path. Nadal has now reached the finals in five consecutive Grand Slams. Unfortunately, he has only triumphed once. His nemesis on each occasion has been Novak Djokovic, who lost to Federer in the semis here last year. That is a testimony to Rafa’s courage, endurance and competitive fire. Yet, it is only halfway to Roger Federer’s record of reaching ten straight slam finals earlier in his career.

It was hard not to feel sorry for the struggling Federer. After a quick start and early break he eventually returned the favor to Novak, who doesn’t need much to turn a match.  John McEnroe quipped that the wind punished Federer’s longer stroke. Toward the end of the match, Roger was mishitting balls with uncharacteristic frequency. On this day, the noblest of competitors and 16-time Grand Slam Champion was undermined by an unreliable ground game which eventually affected his normally consistent serve. In the second set, Roger raced to two breaks. The crowd expected a barnburner and was already savoring an epic five set war. Sure enough, Roger faltered and the tenacious Djokovic got back on serve. The die was cast.  Roger was broken seven times.  The Swiss committed an unprecedented (in three sets) 46 unforced errors.  Djoko labored but only committed 17 in the 2+ hour 6-4,7-5,6-3 semifinal.

Djokovic and Nadal will tee it up on Sunday.  There is more than the prize money at stake.  Djokovic seeks to become the sixth male to join a select fraternity, which does not include Roger, whose members held four consecutive Grand Slam titles.  Nadal seeks to achieve a record seventh Roland Garros championship.  This should be a gem.  Let’s hope the fans show up and the winds don’t.

In the news today, Sara Errani continued to make her Music of the Paris Fortnight in women’s double.  The spunky Italian teamed with best buddy and Olympic partner-to-be, Roberta Vinci to defeat Russians Nadia Petrova and Maria Kirilenko in yet another three set comeback 4-6,6-4,6-2. Sara will have pretty positive vibes heading into tomorrow’s confrontation with favorite Maria Sharapova. A win would complete a sensational coup by the pint-sized Italian roughneck.  Ciao!


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