Rafa Won the U.S. Open
I’m taking the “think of a good title and then just stick with it” approach. It is a good title. Also, true.
So I had a big list of things to read/watch/make hilarious/insightful/amazing comments on, not to mention my list of normal final post-tournament hilarious insightful amazing thoughts, and then I come back this evening and find that there’s a whole new list of things to read/watch/make hilarious/insightful comments on, in addition to the first list, in addition to my own list, and it’s too many lists IT’S TOO MANY LISTS.
So I’ll just eschew the lists and ramble. Might even jamble. #problemsolver
Rafa did his trophy photo shoot at Central Park yesterday.
ATP World Tour (@ATPWorldTour) September 10, 2013
I don’t totally understand Rafa’s pants, but, that’s okay. I’m often confused by Rafa’s pants. #kingofambiguouspants #denimorkhaki? #taperedorskinny? #whiteorgrayortan?
Rafa also did an interview with Charlie Rose, which can be seen here. My favorite exchange is around 5:00-5:30 when Charlie reveals his Rafafandom:
Rafa: “Yeah, I think the first set was amazing. I played at a very, very hi–”
Rafa: “I feel that in the period of the end of the second set and the beginning of the third, Novak was on fire.”
Charlie: “I KNOW! It seemed to be slipping away!!! We were all looking and saying, what’s going on here???!!! What’s he feeling?? WHERE IS IT HAPPENING??”
Also, “I needed to create him a little bit of confusion.” at 8:48. You did, Raf, You did.
Also, Rafa immediately volunteering Roger as yet another great rival of his and then conveniently “forgetting” how many times he’s beaten him, even when prodded by Super Fan Charlie. I’m starting to wonder if Rafa isn’t perhaps masquerading on Twitter somewhere as a die-hard Federer fan… @RaFael “Ugh, not this Nadal guy again! #dreamstealer #onetrickpony #amirightoramiright?”
There are tons and tons of good pieces out there about the final and about Rafa, a lot of which I probably haven’t even had a chance to read yet. This one seems to have gained the consensus as one of the best. It’s funny and funny (both senses of the word) and just so essentially Rafa that a.) he fell down and b.) his fall has become this perfect mythologizable simultaneously literal and metaphorical motif-y (technical term) thing.
Of course, when Rafa fell, my first reaction was concern, because all I saw was what appeared to be his legs collapsing underneath him for no real reason (the camera was on a wide shot). I murmured something to the effect of, “Oh my god,” and for a very brief and terrible moment, considered the possibility that the match was over. Then, Rafa popped up, clearly unharmed, and so I started snickering. No, no I didn’t snicker; I smiled amusedly. Then, I remembered where we were–4-4, 0-30, Rafa pretending he totally didn’t just fall down even though he totally just did, and I was like, “omg, can this get any worse?” Then Rafa lost the next point to go down 0-40 and I was like, “yes, it can indeed!” Then, Rafa saved two of the BPs and I was like, “If Rafa wins this match (which, at that juncture, really did not look promising), it’s all going to come down to the fact that he fell on his ass in front of 20,000 people and then got up like it was nothing.” I was kidding, because again, I was starting to accept the fact that he wasn’t going to win, and, even if he did win, I was assuming it would be in 5 sets because there was no way in heck he was winning the third set. Yeah. I was wrong about the kidding part. But, right about the ass part.
Rafa’s winning forehand on set point in the third was the shot of the match, in my opinion. I feel like if he hadn’t won this point, he very well may not have won the match. And the fact that he went for this shot, on this point–a point he knew was, basically, the match–in the midst of such a long rally, a rally he easily could have gotten tentative during, easily could have thought–let’s see if he misses–the fact that he went for this shot, and, obviously, most importantly, made it–is everything that Rafa is on the tennis court.
(Of course, I was basically totally confused during this point, because I thought the serve was a let, but it wasn’t apparently, then I thought Rafa’s winning forehand might be out because it was so deep and close to the line, then I was momentarily distracted by Rafa’s lawnmower (which I thought at first was another fall) and so I didn’t realize Novak’s ball had gone out and so I thought it might have gone in and Rafa had dropped in despair. THEN, I realized Rafa was indeed lawnmowering, so then I was happy. But it was all very chaotic for me. (Incidentally, this just might be the tipping point for me to finally get glasses.))
In order for the above situation to even be possible, Rafa had to obviously save the 0-40 at 4-4. Of course, this reminded me of the fourth set of the Australian Open in 2012, when Rafa also saved 3 BPs at 0-40, at 3-4. Had Rafa lost one of those points, Novak would have been able to serve for the match in the fourth set. Instead, Rafa ended up taking it to a TB, winning it, going up a break in the fifth… . ANYWAYS, so it’s just interesting that he’s been in that same situation before, although this time he was able to win the match.
I mentioned Rafa’s strong returning yesterday, but I have to mention it again because it really was so precise and such a key to the match. In the past, including when he won the U.S. Open in 2010 (he was 5 of 25–5 of 25–on BPs in that match), Rafa has occasionally tightened up on returns on BPs, particularly on second serve returns (probably because with the first serve, he is just reacting, whereas with the second serve, he’s thinking he has to make it and then gets too nervous and overhits). On Monday night, though, Rafa was nerveless and flawless on these returns and they were a big part of what allowed him to break Novak 7 times because he was putting all of the balls back in the court, and in places that at least put him in a neutral position and at times put him in an advantageous position.
Final, final thought on the match: I feel like Rafa is doing this year what everyone expected him to do in 2011, i.e. after he won the French, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open in 2010 at age 24, everyone assumed he was going to dominate the tour for the next year at least and win everything and be #1 for an extended time. Then he got injured in Australia, but came back strong in IW, but lost in the final. Then he did the same in Miami. Then Madrid. Then Rome. Then Wimbledon. Then the U.S. Open. (am I really doing this?) All to the same guy. Then all the “he can’t solve the riddle, he’s gotta solve the riddle” (THERE IS NO RIDDLE) stuff started and it was insufferable and awful and ridiculous. The POINT is: Rafa lost those matches in 2011 for a variety of reasons and Novak deserved the victories obviously and that’s fine. But now Rafa’s going ahead and taking what’s his, and what more logically should have been his a couple of years ago, but. ya know, Rafa operates on his own timeline, he will not be rushed!, etc. and the bottom line is that it’s just so nice that Rafa’s taking it and playing at this level again, and it’s maybe even nicer that it’s now instead of then.
Rafa arrived this morning to very little fanfare.
Tommy Robredo (@TRobredo) September 11, 2013