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Was it really the greatest tennis match of all time?

Roar Pro
31st January, 2012
18
1976 Reads

Today I just had the greatest lunch I have ever had, however by the time I got home to sit down to dinner enough time had passed to reflect, and eventually realise that whilst the lunch was pretty good, I have had better in my time.

That is the situation I find myself in when considering the Australian Open Men’s final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. It was absorbing and edge of your seat tennis for most of the match wasn’t it? Or was it?

In our ‘now’ or ‘on demand’ world everything is becoming short term. Our attention span is only so long before we move to the next entertainment in our lives. Rarely do we sit back and take stock of what has happened.

The need to tweet or update our status on Facebook has made this trend an enhanced phenomena. If you say you have seen the greatest tennis match ever before the next person then potentially there is more notoriety.

Friends and I who have discussed this are certainly guilty of it jumping on the ‘greatest match of all time’ bandwagon however when thinking about the way the match went there needs to be an acknowledgement that we jumped the gun.

The final certainly had drama and of course length of time on court. The rallies were long and the power off the racket of winners from both players was astounding at times.

However when you consider a few possible detractors from the match you start to realise that there have been a few others that should vie for top billing.

Djokovic’s forehand in the first set was off. He was hitting it long or short which allowed Nadal to capitalise and break him a couple of times. During 369 points of the match there was only one time either player served and volleyed.

Not that it’s necessary to enhance the match but the all court tennis variety was not part of this display.

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For a large part of the second, all of the thrird, and the start of the fourth set Djokovic was in such control that the final was petering towards a relatively standard four set win.

The eighth game of the fourth set changed all that when Nadal came from the brink of defeat to hold serve and ultimately force a deciding set.

The definition of greatness in a match presents itself for discussion and of course it is subjective.

The final had many great aspects; the mental battle, the pure physical contest, the ability of both players to play defensively to save points and offensively to win them; the unrelenting nature of so many of the rallies was memorable for so many reasons. However it lacked in other areas.

The Wimbledon final of 2008 between Nadal and Roger Federer was altogether on another level. The shot making and artistry of the points were incredible.

The match had a comeback with the defending champion and clear favourite down two sets to love and then two sets to one when he saved championship points.

In the end the Spanish underdog claimed the title on grass that many thought the clay court specialist couldn’t do.

The Australian Open final had two warriors who have played an unbelievably high level of tennis for a sustained period; however they are similar types of player. Both players were content to match and work each other over from the baseline.

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I missed seeing one of Djokovic’s favourite drop shots, I missed seeing player come to the net perhaps a bit more often than the times they did.

By coming to the net you either force the pass or lob and from there it’s either a winner or an error. The players were in that sense very defensive throughout the night.

When we reflect on great sporting contests we are quick to judge the most recent tight tussle as one of the greatest. It’s like saying the 2005-6 AFL Grand Finals between the Swans and Eagles were the greatest because of the closely matched nature of the teams.

It was ultimately a tough, and tense contest with a few highlights, but with time to reflect a larger percentage would concur that 1989 provided more.

There is no doubt this match was right up there, possibly in the top five, but there is no rankings system of great matches like there is for matches won.

It is purely opinion of fans, past champions and experts between matches of this and bygone eras.

As the 2012 season progresses we are all looking forward to more incredible matches between the big four in the men’s draw. Let’s just hope that if its Rafa and Novak who play in the final of Rolland Garros one of them has learnt how to mix it up just a little more, for it is us that will be rewarded.