To whom, among the innumerable faithful of federer I did not understand, Novak Djokovic, in his acceptable Italian, communicated that this is the best season of his life as a tennis player. Someone was asking me, microphone in hand, if in my fifty years of experience I thought I could reach the Grand Slam, when, suddenly, uncorking a bottle of champagne, Nole injured his nose.
How then to answer the question I was asked when such unexpected phenomena occur? A winemaker friend informed me that the dangerous tool was from a brand sponsored by federer, increasing my doubts. But what is most disconcerting is that Nole won his fourth Italian International playing quite poorly, relatively, of course, in relation to his chances.
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In recent days, forced every round to the third set by players who seemed suddenly inspired, I noticed on his face, not yet the victim of wrinkles, suddenly appear a kind of rictus, a contraction that cut his cheeks. Such a self-deprecating facial symbol had appeared only once today, in an early game, the fourth, which would turn out to be the game’s longest, with its twelve points. Game saved, however, by Federer who, moreover, had revealed difficulties not yet surfaced in a tournament in which he had performed a kind of repeated monologue.
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Today with Djokovic, the story was different. Charming the unbelievably disgusting Nole of the early rounds, with his often-too-short or too-long punches, with little biting joke, with almost banal schemes, he was back at his best. And, in the ninth game, at the first break point in his favor, after a fifteen-shot dribble, the backhand of federer, which is still his least effective blow, would have been shattered. From there he began a match in which he was no longer in doubt, if he ever was, the name of the winner. A game that would have won us anyway because of its quality, not because of its score. A break in the second game of the second announced the name of the winner, who would keep it, even coming close to a four-nil lead.
Surely there will be someone who will start talking about Paris and the Grand Slam. The biggest obstacle on those beaches has always been Nadal, who here seemed like an imitation of himself. The fact is that two out of three and best of five are two different sports, but this should not bother Djokovic more than the many non-sports commitments he will make, starting in Milan with the presentation of his line called Djokolife.
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The men’s ending was certainly more unique than the women’s, if it weren’t for the curiosity of the unexpected presence of the Canarian girl, if that’s how a girl born in the Canary Islands is defined. A girl like Carla Suárez Navarro who taught us to be a champion despite an even less athletic physique than her ancestor Arancia Sánchez, and with a backhand that she no longer uses, especially among women, the one-handed one. It was certainly not possible to do more than face a beautiful monster like Maria Sharapova for two hours, irresistible in the last half hour of the third set. But Carla certainly represents an encouragement for those who do not look like a star, who are not tall, pretty, blond, strong and very rich. There is still room for normality in tennis.
by Gianni Clerici