TOP Sportswire—Just in case you don't follow tennis (and who doesn't not follow tennis these days? Even I don't, and I try), you have an opportunity to watch history in the making this afternoon, if you happen not to be otherwise occupied at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.
Novak Djokovic is having a year of years.
As Sports Illustrated puts it: "Nadal is all that stands between Djokovic and one of the greatest individual seasons in tennis history, a campaign that would rank favorably with Rod Laver in 1969, Jimmy Connors in 1974, John McEnroe in 1984 and Roger Federer in 2006. The 24-year-old Serb is 63-2 with nine titles and can become just the sixth man to win three majors in the same year, joining such esteemed company as Laver, Connors, Mats Wilander, Federer and Nadal."*
Novak Djokovic. Photo from his official website.
His comeback against Federer on Saturday was one of the greatest in the history of the game, against one of the greatest players in the game. Down two sets, Djokovic (it's pronounced "Jock-oh-vitch" by Serbians and "joke-oh-vitch" by Anglophone announcers) came back, then faced down two match points with Federer serving. Awesome. Epic. Barely believable. (Of course, I missed it. And I meant to watch.)
It's never a foregone conclusion against the great Spaniard, of course, but Djokovic has beaten Nadal five straight this year, all in tournament finals. It's as close to being owned as Nadal has ever been. A Nadal victory today—as astonishing as this might sound—would be essentially an upset. He has a lot to prove; if he does it, that will be something to see too.
Worth watching today you have the chance. An athlete having this kind of year doesn't happen very often in any sport.
In the U.S., it's on CBS.
*This seems to be wrong, now that I think of it. Don Budge won the Grand Slam in 1938. Laver did it twice, which I guess is covered by naming him once, but it still doesn't seem right to lump him in with the group that has won three majors without saying "at least" in front of "three majors," since the Grand Slam consists of winning all four majors. So why no love for Budge? Because he was an amateur? That was the thing to be in those days.
UPDATE: CBS is not even airing it in my market. I now officially hate my CBS affiliate.
Have to watch it online, which is annoying because I don't quite have the bandwidth. Must get cable...and cable modem....
UPDATE #2: Djokovic won, 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 6-1. Very curious final. Sort of a redux of Wimbledon, which followed the same pattern. Djokovic completely dominated in the first two sets, then Nadal fought ferociously and took the third to a tiebreaker, which he won handily. At about that time Dkojovic started having trouble with a strained muscle in his back, getting massages on the changeover and needing a medical timeout. With Djokovic on the ropes and Nadal resurgent, you would have thought that the fourth set would have been Nadal's, or at least close. Not so. Djokovic broke him early, and then again later, and won easily. By the final games Nadal had essentially given up, to a degree I've seldom seen, standing flat-footed while watching Djokovic's passing shots.
Which made it quite awkward when the interviewer after the game opened with some canned bull about how Nadal never gives up no matter what...odd in that we had just watched him give up. Makes you wonder which match the interviewer had been watching.
I have to believe Nadal just doesn't think he can win against Djokovic. He's 0-6 against Djokovich this year, all in finals. Given how dominant Nadal has looked at times over the years—like nothing can beat him—this is pretty amazing.
I ended up watching the match online, which was fine—the early stop-and-start bandwidth problems eventually disappeared. The big problem were the horrible announcers, who were pretty awful, blustering and blathering on and on with ridiculous comments, seemingly half of which were wrong. Where's Bud Collins when you need him? (Which reminds me, I don't care for NBC much, either.)
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.