Another French feather in Nadal’s cap

“All work and no play makes jack a dull boy”, is a famous quote of unquestionable origin. This is not an arbitrary fact that retains an asynchronously universal meaning. It basically tries to put games as one of prime contents in our daily routine.

The extent of implementation varies as per perspectives and generally takes different manifestations. But on the whole, we have always acceded to this phrase in our lives and incorporated games amidst work. Some usually include it in the most miniature forms to charm their leisure and relax themselves. Some take it to the superlative forms by paying diligent attention to the domain. Sportsman belongs to this category. Today we have innumerable sports with some quality performers.

One such game is Lawn Tennis where there is stiff competition. Top notch players have been battling it out to gain the top positions. For several consecutive years, Rafael Nadal of Spain has been struggling to snatch the top spot from Swiss Roger Federer. While Nadal often grabs the bag on the clay court series, Federer is consistent on the grass and other courts.

Tipped against the World No. 1 – Federer, and the season mid way through, Nadal had some target to achieve. Coming into the French Open 2008, there were significant records to be broken for the lad. As usual, the series progressed and both Rafael and Federer advanced through the rounds, crushing the opponents ruthlessly along. The stage was set for a Nadal-Federer final and both ensured that by registering some strong victories in the pursuit. While Federer faced good challenges and gave in a few sets in the tournament, Nadal was on song. Continuing his brilliant form on clay with only two losses, out of 100+ games, Nadal brushed through his opponents. In each of his matches, he won in straight sets and didn’t drop a set in the entire French Open. While at the semis, he broke a previous record of advancing into semis without losing a set. Even this year, he hasn’t lost a single set as of date. These figures definitely mark his prowess in the game, especially on clay court.

While Federer survived a scare against Monfils in the semis, he came back strong and won the match convincingly. Coming into the finals, he had a daunting task to defeat Nadal, to whom he had lost in the last 3 finals of the same tournament. On clay, it is Nadal who dominates and history had its touch on Federer. In the finals he lacked colour and force that usually defines him. The final was a highly expectant one and the public was actually disappointed. The game was unarguably one-sided with Nadal hitting and calling the shots. The first set went down in 32 minutes with Nadal snatching a demeaning 6-1 set over Federer.

Very rarely has Federer shown such lack of aggression and resilience. He was broken time and again throughout the match. Even the second set started off the same way till 3-0 Nadal. Finally Federer showed some substance and broke back to scamper 3 successive games. At that point turnover seemed coming and the champ was gaining strong grounds. Powerfully, the famous forehands, down-line deep shots, deft drop shots, cross-court back-hands came flowing and Nadal struggled to score points. It was 3-3. Since then Federer never won a game and very few points. The set went to Nadal from thereon without change at 6-3. The next one was a complete washout. Nadal managed a 6-0 clinch and Federer only provided a return-shot to complete the rallies. His drop-shots didn’t pay off.

But the credit goes to Nadal and his brave advances. His powerful shots didn’t let the champ off-the hook and he was caught wanting on many occasions. When Federer was at the nets, Nadal’s late shots managed to precariously maneuver through the extremities of the court to land just inside bounds. On other counts, his quick lobbs left Federer fretting and kicking dirt. Continually pushing and intelligent shots demonstrated exquisite game-play and Nadal gathered a well deserved win. He came out all guns firing and continued his winning streak to establish an unprecedented record of a grand slam win without losing a set. He also equaled the legendary Bjorn Borg’s record of 4 successive French Open titles from 2005 to 2008 and stands a strong chance of breaking it.

Although Nadal savoured a strong victory over Federer, he still has to prove his point on other courts. His impeccable form on clay is commendable, nevertheless. He is probably the greatest! On clay, of course!

Arindam Chakraborty

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