This has been a phenomenal year for Rafael Nadal. Winning 3 Grand Slams in a year was known to be Roger Federer's forte. Well, that surely has changed and it seems as though the roles have been reversed. This year Roger was down to one Slam and Rafa won the other three. For a die hard Federer fan which I am, it's hard to digest the fact that his ranking has slipped to the 3rd, that he has won just the Australian Open this year, that his phenomenal streak of reaching 23 consecutive Slam semis was broken, that he was beaten by Novak Djokovic (whom he has beat all the previous years) in this year's US Open semis. All this and more has happened this year. This year, one particular player, not named Roger Federer has dominated all the slams and most of the tour. This saddens me. But then, one can't help but admire the humility that Rafa shows, no matter how much I want to hate him for having displaced Roger from the pedestal and making it his own. For all the comparisons people make between him and Roger, for all the comments made about Rafa being or on the path to being the greatest ever in the history of tennis, he himself has never once said that he is the best. He, in all humility accepts the compliments, but still considers Roger the best ever, and when he says so, you have to believe it, as he says it with complete honesty. So then, how can a Federer fan not feel happy about Rafa winning the US Open.
Both Roger and Rafa play at such a high level and with such contrasting styles, that when they meet on Tennis' grandest arenas-the four Slams-it becomes the ultimate match, the one that shows how an ideal match ought to be played. These matches are a celebration of Tennis in their own right. Rafa plays every single point as if his life hangs by it, and that, even when he has already broken his opponent's serve once. That grit, that fight for every point is simply amazing. He will run, and run like hell, even if everyone can see that there's absolutely no way for him to reach it. A wise person would probably conserve his energy for longer rallies, for winners. But, not Rafa. You might call him stupid for doing that. But, it is this inherent naivety that brings him trophies.
Roger on the other hand plays every point with such grace, that one can't help but admire the beauty of his shots. This US Open again saw him playing his famous signature shot of last year, "the tweener". It seems as though tennis journalists have to come up with new words every year just to name Federer's shots. And then, to describe their beauty, they have to come up with some more. When Federer plays tennis, it is a visual treat difficult to describe in words.
Somehow, this year, they didn't reach the finals of the same slams and we missed the treat. Hopefully, we will get to watch a few Roger-Rafa slam finals with Roger winning a few next year. But, until then, kudos to Rafa for achieving so much while still so young.