The most expressive eyebrows in tennis belong to Nadal, and his and others’ eyebrows were working hard during a match that felt as though it contained more breaks than a busy weekend on an orthopaedic ward. But there was an explanation for the weirdness in the title-match, as Nadal was in serious discomfort from a knee injury by the early stages of the second set.
Perhaps other less spirited players would simply have given their knee and their eyebrows a well-deserved rest by quitting, but Nadal is made of sterner stuff and he stayed on court and levelled by taking a second set that included seven breaks in a row.
Sometimes, I think Rafa’s eyebrows alone could win a few games – they are just that determined.
In the words of Graham Taylor, what sort of thing is this? Nadal opens up with a blistering forehand winner on the run, plays a deft drop volley moments later and takes the set when Murray goes long with a backhand.
That second set was so odd. Rafa was hitting out and playing aggressive when his knee permitted and it totally threw Andy off his game.
“Rafael was hurt at the beginning of the second set,” Murray said. “On one leg he could still go on. That’s how good he is.”
I thought Andy was very classy in his post-match interviews…
“Murray just played better today,” Nadal said. ”I tried but couldn’t give anything more in the third set. I don’t think that this injury will be a serious problem. For sure it is not the same as last year. It was an option not to finish the match, but that is not a good way to finish a final, not for me, not for Andy and not for the crowd.”
…and so was Rafa.
One could argue whether Nadal needed this tournament — neither Roger Federer nor Djokovic has come out to play since the Australian Open — and there are times when the Spaniard allows a duty to the game to outweigh personal consideration. Richard Krajicek, the Wimbledon champion in 1996 and the tournament director in Rotterdam, had flown to Madrid last October to ratify the contract, sent a private jet to speed Nadal’s passage and noticeably made a beeline for the vanquished rather than victor at the end of the event.
‘I could see him shaking his head. But Rafa’s not the kind of guy who’s going to stop chasing the ball unless there’s a good reason,’ said Murray, 13-1 on the season. ‘He said that he sometimes has a knee problem when he plays a lot on hard court.’