Sunday, May 3, 2009

Nadal Wins Rome Masters, 30 In a Row on Clay

"He overcomes the pressure better than me, that's why he's the best in the world."

- Novak Djokovic, after losing 7-6, 6-2 in the Rome Masters Finals against Nadal.

1 comment:

Chronic said...

Novak's comment points to what I have alluded to in previous posts about Nadal. Granted, the man has physical gifts - his speed is blinding and he hits the ball with a ton of topspin - but what separates him from his peers isnt a particlar skill or technical advantage. There are many players on The Tour who are faster, hit the ball harder, server better, play better at the net, or play a more tactical, strategic game of tennis.

What makes Nadal different than anybody else on The Tour is his mental approach to the game. He never, ever gives up on a ball or a point. Every single point of the match is played at maximum intensity - no matter the score. It is truly disturbing for his opponents. When he loses a huge point or a crucial game, he never loses his focus. He is mentally so strong that while his opponents are winning points or games off him, he never leaves "The Zone." They can break Nadals serve, but they cant break his focus or concentration. The only other pro sports or games player I can compare him to in this regard is Tiger Woods.

On top of his superhuman ability to focus, Nadal never cramps up in a big spot. The more pressure there is in the moment, the better he seems to play. The only other person I can compare him to in this regard is Derek Jeter. Nadal is built for the limelight, the huge spot, all the cameras and announcers and fans and drama - the performance aspect of the competition actually makes him better.

Its scary to watch. After Nadal won the first set in Rome, where the fans got to see some great tennis, the match was over. Novak isnt a worse tennis player than Nadal - and if he is, its not by much. Technically speaking, Djokovic's game is a bit stronger. The first set proved that. But the inner game of tennis, the mental game, is where Nadal is unmatched by anyone on The Tour. The second set - where Novak had mentally checked out and Nadal was going after every ball like it was Match Point - proves why Nadal is #1.