Nadal and Djokovic: Agony and Ecstasy


Originally published on: 29/01/12 16:27

Words cannot describe what unfolded on Rod Laver Arena on Sunday 29 January, but the fact that it was well into Monday 30 when Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal finally stepped up to the podium to make their post match speeches tells a story in itself.

The defeated finalist was first to speak after the sponsor presentations and Rafa managed an inaudible sigh, a moment of composure and a magnificent “Good Morning!”

We had just witnessed two of the world’s best tennis players play tennis like you wouldn’t believe. I don’t think there are any academies around the world that can teach that, and if there were, they would have a waiting list longer than for membership of the All England Club.

A match that started at 7.30pm like a game of chess finished at 1.37am like a bullfight and it was testament to the quality and drama of the tennis that Rod Laver Arena was still full.

The level of the tennis was astonishing as was the sportsmanship on display. The match started with a few words exchanged at the net between the world No. 1 and the World No.2 and finished with a man-hug that you knew meant something. Both players had given their all, and both knew that they had been part of something special.

“I suffered during the match, but I enjoyed all the troubles that I had during all the match,” said Nadal. “I enjoyed [it]. I tried to be there, to find solutions all the time. I played a lot with my heart. I played a lot with my mind, and is something that is nice to be around and not just play tennis.”

Asked to compare it the 2008 Wimbedon final he managed a smile as he said he preferred it,  “but I really understand that was a really special match, and probably a match that gonna be in my mind not because I lost, no, because the way that we played. So that’s happy be part of these.”

The first set was two minutes short of the entire length of Saturday’s women’s final and the fourth set was six minutes longer. The final set lasted one hour and 14 minutes. We were treated to 369 points, most of which were contested like they were the last.

Novak Djokovic has beaten Rafael Nadal in their last seven meetings, but this is the match where the rivalry has really been stoked, where we witnessed the shifting axis of men’s tennis. Much has been made of the scintillating tennis skill of the top four, but the rivalry between the Top 2 is going to be continually compulsive viewing. Rafael Nadal came within a whisker of defeating his nemesis.

The ecstasy today belonged to Novak Djokovic, 2012 Australian Open champion, five times Grand Slam winner and World No.1. The agony belonged to Rafael Nadal, 10 times a Grand Slam champion and world No.2. We wouldn’t mind betting that in this instance, most people will long remember who came second.

That’s why it was such an amazing match.


Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.