After almost begging him to bring us a stress-free match, I never believed that it would be today against Rolf. Sure, he'd beat him what? 12 times in a row? But fresh from his great victory against the PoD yesterday (yep ... I'm still laughing at that), and the fact that Rolf actually does like playing on the clay, I don't think even he expected to be on the receiving end of what he got today.
Rafa was simply am-a-zing. Has he played any better on clay this year? Of course not. And maybe Rafa can't continuously bring that sort of performance for each and every match he plays these days, but it's really good to see it come out when it does. I was shouting "WOW" and applauding him in my own living room today. Rose covered her face with her paws ...
Rafa romped away with the first set 6-2, but the actual tennis actually made it look more like a hammering. Rafa's level dropped a little in the second, and @genny_ss reported that he'd felt his quadriceps a bit overloaded in the second, but Rafa broke at the right point at 4-5 in the second, and served it out for the victory. It was just a pity he couldn't have served an ace to win it, so good was that performance today.
The second semi-final is between Benoit Paire and Smugly tonight. Benoit is - of course - already being completely written off, and I doubt he will win ... so, we'll more than likely have it tomorrow. A Fedal final.
"Staff have just gulped for Me #Nadal" ... said @PseudoFed today. You don't say ...
On a Saturday afternoon in April 2010, Rafan and I sat in the Foro Italico in Rome and could barely cope with what we were witnessing. At one point, Rafan shouted out ... "COME ON RAFA, YOU CAN DO IT, YOU CAN DO IT !!!" He could, and he did ... and Rafan famously turned round Rafa's year as he went on to win the Clay Slam, Wimbledon, and the US Open. ;)
After that Gulbis semi-final match in 2010 we made our way to the bus stop. I was wearing my "Don't Worry ... He is NADAL" t-shirt, and a couple pointed at me and smiled. I confirmed to them that actually I had been ... worried that was.
So fast forward to May 2013, and as I was sneakily watching the match on my phone at work [I am so going to get sacked one of these days because of the attention I afford Rafa during the working day], but I saw the faces of Dee, Jan, Jen, Deb, Jeanna and Sakita in the crowd, looking as pale and as wan as I had been feeling that day.
But once again ... he did it.
And so the dichotomies rage again. As I said in my ranty post about why is it such a big deal about Rafa losing at the French Open, when his record of achievements is met with a "tut" and a roll of the eyes because of the great number of clay court titles he's won - you know, on the lesser of all surfaces, like it's nothing, it's easy - and yet get the sniff of a chance of a Nadal defeat on clay and everyone is frothing at mouth.
And then it's like well, how many more of these matches will he be capable of winning now, he can't continue to keep doing it. You don't say. Like there's never going to be a time when it all catches up with him ... just like it has done with every other single Champion that has ever lived. He's been winning Rome since he was 18 years of age. Yep, 18. And he'll shortly be 27. So it's like a 23 year old Federer and at the age that he is now, still being expected to cream every single player in sight on grass, assuming that he played 5 grass court tournaments in a season. After 8 months out of the game. Yes ... ridiculous.
And Bodious complains of a lack of growth in Rafa; that he still claims to be nervous of "the little guys", in spite of the fact that he's the most successful player ever on clay. But Rafa still continues to be a bag of nerves, and he insists that any player on a given day can be a danger to him ... and it's true, because it's proven. And he has had one of those days happen to him - even on clay. I remember plenty out there dining out on Soderling for years. And it's these guys that don't have a care or a thought in the world, the ones with the streak of arrogance, that seemingly like to and enjoy having a right old go against Rafa rather than any other player in particular. Funny that.
And has he never had any really tough and difficult matches on clay? Has he walked through every match he's ever played? What about that infamous final here in Rome in 2006 against Federer? Davydenko and Hewitt in 2007. Djokovic and Federer in Hamburg in 2008; Djokovic in 2009, and "that" match. Gulbis in 2010, Murray and of course Djokovic in 2011. Yes, just seemingly a handful of matches over a number of years; but study your favourite over 5 tournaments on their favourite surface and what do you find?
With more miles on the clock and a body affected by injury, even the greatest player ever on clay will one day find it catching up with him ... But not today.
But I never, ever want to see that sulky pouty Italian's mush again. I don't find him a "character", I find him a waste of space who has a talent some could only dream of, and yet he flops and fannys about from match to match, barely even trying. Making his mind up he's going to lose before he's even hit a ball and barely having any stomach for the fight.
I'm glad Rafa's seen the back of him with a 6-1, 6-3 scoreline in an hour. But after saying all that, I hope his next opponent in Gulbis doesn't make the same kind of effort we saw in Rome in 2010. Yikes!!