Old Rome…

Photo by Andrew Medichini, AP

…remember when the Master Series finals were best of five sets? Remember when an up-and-coming guy who had just won his first Master Series title in Monte-Carlo played an epic final against a clay-court specialist and won? (Nada/Coria in 2005 – if you haven’t seen that match, I feel sorry for you.) He made the final again in the next year and this time was facing the #1 player in the world. One couldn’t hope for as exciting a match, could one?

Well, Rafa and Roger delivered us a match that was a roller-coaster right up to the end. It’s not the same as the ’08 Wimbledon final – for one thing, the stakes were nowhere near as high – but it’s one for the ages too. Steve Tignor writes up a wonderful salute to the match, the tournament, clay, the best of five format, and a wonderful tennis rivalry – Check it out.

Can we possibly hope for as exciting of a final this year?

35 Responses

  1. Wooffie says:

    I hope so. Cos I’m going to be there!!!

  2. Fay says:

    hEY Hi Woofie, how you doing? good luck in Rome, lets hope its a successful one for our dear Rafa!!!

    • Wooffie says:

      Hi Fay … lovely to hear from you. Four Rafateers will be cheering Rafa on in Rome, mark my words. Can’t wait!

      • Ch F says:

        I’m tempted to go too, although last minute flights aren’t a great option at the moment. Couldn’t have organised it earlier cause I was supposed to be elsewhere next weekend, but that got canceled! I’ll give it my best shot. Last time I checked tickets were still available.

        • Wooffie says:

          We actually have 1 spare ticket for all the sessions starting Wednesday and ending with the final on Sunday. One of our friends unfortunately had to drop out at the last minute. Just thought I’d mention it, as you never know.

          • Ch F says:

            Oh ok, thank you very much, Wooffie! I’ll keep that in mind. How can I contact you for further details?

          • Fay says:

            If I was a free agent I would definately be on a plane Woofie for that ticket, I hope to catch Rafa @ Queens this year, *fingers/toes crossed for that one*, still hope you all have a great time and bring Rafa lots of luck…xx looking at the draw he is going to need all ‘your support’ no?

            • Ch F says:

              I’m actually after that ticket but have no way of contacting Wooffie :-( Hope she sees my post.

              • Wooffie says:

                Hi ChF… you can definitely have one of any of the tickets from Wednesday to Sunday and chum up with us. Its just difficult to think of a way to contact you as we can only log on here first thing in the morning or in the evening. We do, of course, have a mobile number you can call us on, but I don’t think it prudent to leave it here.

                Miri – would it be ok if I sent my number to you via your contact form, and if ChF can then contact you via the same way and you could perhaps pass my number on via email to her? Sorry to use the thread in this way, but it seems a shame not to be able to pass on ticket(s) if ChF would like them. Or does anyone else have any bright ideas??

                • miri says:

                  Do you have access to your email? If so, check that or use the contact form to send your phone number as you suggested.

                • Ch F says:

                  Thank you very much Wooffie. Mission accomplished, thanks to miri of course. I hope I can make it to Rome! I will contact you for further details.

                  • Wooffie says:

                    Miri – that’s fantastic! Thanks so much for helping out with this.

                    ChF – will listen out for you or send a text. Looking forward to meeting up and hope it all turns out OK.

                    Thanks again all.

  3. Inés says:

    Another epic match was the 2007 semifinal against Davydenko. Those epic matches made me go to the tournament in 2008. Unfortunately for me, it was the worst tournament of that year, Rafa loosing in his first match due to the severe blister on his feet, the amount of retirements …….., two semifinals that were a joke

  4. jimmy says:

    As I’ve commented elsewhere, this was a brilliant match. Almost as good as Wimb 2008 final (maybe even better in terms of sheer quality of tennis alone). It’s interesting to compare both players’ games at that point in their careers.

    Federer was at his peak in this match. There is no doubt that this was Federer’s best clay court match ever. ( Paradoxically, better than the 2 matches in which he actually beat Nadal). Federer’s volleying, forehand and his footwork was unreal in this match. He gave it everything he had, and then some. His success % at the net was 70%+ for the whole match, which is phenomenal against Nadal.

    Back then, Nadal had a limited game. His service was slower and less potent (many of them spun on Federer’s backhand). The backhand was also nowhere near the weapon it became in 2008-2009. He’ was also much less aggressive overall. However Nadal was FAST.. blindingly fast in 2006. Faster and more explosive than he is today.

    This match also showed us why Nadal WAS great then. He came back from 4-2 down in the final set, saved 2 match points on his serve at 5-6. He then trailed by a minibreak in the Tie-break (2-4) but still came back to win. It was almost like the 5th set of Wimb 2008 final, where Nadal just refused to loose. Just when you thought he was out, the Spaniard raised his game.

    Federer actually won MORE points in this match, but Nadal just played the important points better and more aggressively. In contrast, Federer got tight at the 2 match points he held, making unforced errors. So perhaps even in 2006 Nadal was in Federer’s head. Ultimately, this match proved historical as Nadal tied Vilas’s record and cemented his credential as a long time rival for Federer.

    Finally we see why Nadal is acknowledged as one of the greatest clay courters of all time. Even as a teenager, he was able to defeat a player at the VERY top of his game. When Nadal comes as a fully developed player on clay (as we saw in RG 2008 or some glimpses in Monte Carlo last week) he’s capable of some scary tennis ; almost like he’s playing a new game..

    • Fay says:

      Love reading your comments Jimmy, so spot on… Nadal back then was young and fearless, and played with his heart and soul, and was known to up his game when it really counted, he used to brake Fed down mentally, more often than not, when their matches were close, not surprisingly, Rafa would come out on top, when Fed did get the better of Rafa it was always straight forwards, to watch him back then although more energetic his game was far more one dimensional than it is now, he has come on so much since then, such a shame about the injuries, I would love to see Rafa get the better of Fed again now, just to prove a point but I fear that Rafa cannot prehaps go physically five sets without causing himself harm… if he is going to win he has to do it Fed style in 3-4 sets the warrior that we see here can no longer be, but still he was damn great wasn’t he?

      • Ch F says:

        The greatness of a player, in my opinion, is also measured by his ability to adjust. Rafa is a more complete player now than back then. If he can wrap things up more quickly it will be much better for his knees. I hope he can still play 5 sets when he has to. What has changed is probably that he can’t afford to do that in every single match.

    • rubik says:

      jimmy, thanks a million for your technical and relevant analysis of Nadal’s game. Thanks also a million for your objective analysis of Federer’s game. I cannot say how so very much I appreciate reading and re-reading very attentively your objective comments on both Nadal’s and Federer’s tennis game and, perhaps evern more importantly, the evolution of Nadal’s and Federer tennis game over time.

      It is something I find it so very rare, unfortunately. People who truly realize how unbelievably fortunate we are to have been watching and, for me at least, observing very carefully Nadal’s and Federer’s tennis game and its evolution over time.

      Nadal and Federer are both VERY GREAT tennis players, and have been for years now. LUCKY US !

      That said, VAMOS, Nadal ! Go for it all the way in ROME !

  5. sia says:

    Well … best of three can’t possibly create the same tension as a full on five setter … but I think we will see some breathtaking tennis from Rafa no doubt.
    Thanks jimmy for your own match report … brilliant.

  6. wendya says:

    Just seen some snippets of the draw for Rome and Rafa’s draw looks to be a difficult one. He has the Sod for a possible quarter final and Fed for a possible semi. Nole seems to have the easiest route on the opposite side of the draw.

    • Nic says:

      Boohoo no chance to have a Fedal rematch in the final of Rome this time. Would have loved the possibility of that. Haven’t read this article yet but look forward to savouring it.

      • wendya says:

        Hope the Sod wears himself out at Barca…have only seen a little of him playing there, but he seems to be in really good form! Just heard on TV that Kols will probably be Rafa’s first match…another dangerous oponent.

    • miri says:

      Let’s move the draw talk over to this post. Thanks!

  7. nic says:

    Just watched the video highlights and boy was Rafa really noisy (plenty grunting). I think he’s not quite as heavy with the grunting these days now, am I right? Well, just from watching the highlights I can see how very exciting that entire 5-setter was. Wow, Rafa really came back from the brink a couple of times there. Amazing will to win. Just wonderful to see that raw energy and passion back then. Gotta say our boy’s a little more refined now. Funny how the commentator was referring to Rafa as a teenager hee. Seems like so long ago. Also noticed how tight the stadium looked. The stands were really close to the court, and each row was elevated on quite a steep gradient. Probably made the match seem more intimate. These days the stands look like they go much further out.

    • nic says:

      Just watched the trophy ceremony:
      You have to see it, Rafa was just adorable when receiving the trophy, trying to speak a little Italian, lotsa eyebrow action going on here. Too cute for words.
      Couple of other highlights:
      – Benito looked like half his size here! :)
      – They played The Final Countdown after the whole ceremony hahaha. So erm, looks like they’ve been keeping that tradition going since way back when. Remember last year, lots of awkward moments at the trophy ceremony, that song going on forever being one of them!

      • Eliana says:

        LOL nic, I’ve watched last years’ final like 3 times and I have to fast forward that part because it’s too awkward with the music for me, and I wasn’t even there!

      • Michelle says:

        Thanks so much for the link Nic. So much to love about that clip, and one of them is right at the start of it when we get to see jubilant Uncle Toni as opposed to the sunglasses-wearing-cool-daddio Uncle Toni. :D

        Is that really Benito in the stands (he stand up at 0:16)?!

        Thanks for sharing! Awesome memories!

        • miri says:

          I’m pretty sure that’s not Benito.

          I think Benito was still working with the tour at this part and not part of Team Nadal, but I’m not 100% sure when he made the change.

          • Michelle says:

            Ha, okay, because I was thinking that he’s hardly recognizable! :))

            Rafa is charm personified, he’s cracking them all up and he has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hands. Freaking ADORBZ! >_<* I flove his deep set dimples in his pudgy baby face. What a honey.

            • nic says:

              Benito wasn’t the one in the stands (though he did look a lot like him), but I’m sure he was the one at Rafa’s chair in a suit jacket if I remember correctly. But yeah, not sure whether he was working for Rafa yet at the time.

  8. CC says:

    “…awful Euro-pop…” Oye, there’s nothing wrong with Euro-pop. Nothing wrong at all. ;)

    Watching this just reminds me of why I love Rafa and not Roger.

    Niiice aaasss, Rafa!

  9. sia says:

    One can only hope that Rafa has been practicing his Italian for the finals ceremony this year.
    So hot …

  10. Fay says:

    Yeah CC, there is no comparison between Rafa and Roger in the physique department, Rafa is by far way sexier! bum, legs, cheekbones, eyes,brows, lips, swag and arse… he has it all…

  11. dutchgirl says:

    I haven’t seen either of the two matches you mention, miri, but accidently I’ve ordered them on dvd just two days ago! I’m already looking forward to seeing them!