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Nothing but Nadal in 2010

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Nothing but Nadal in 2010

No room for dispute, 2010 was a banner year for Rafael Nadal.  The Spaniard captured three majors, regained the world number one ranking and completed the career grand slam.  As such, Nadal’s domination left no ambiguity as to who was the most outstanding player in 2010.  With the year at a close, here’s a snapshot of the stories which caught the headlines this foregone season.

After a slow start, Nadal found his footing on clay with his first calendar title at the Monte-Carlo Masters.  Subsequent to banking titles at the Masters in Rome and Madrid, Nadal culminated his clay campaign with his fifth big prize at Roland Garros.  At Wimbledon, the Spaniard defended his 2008 title to seize his second major at the All England Club.  Finally, at U.S. Open, with troublesome obstacles removed from his half of the draw,  Nadal reached his first final in New York.  Nadal stared down a strong challenge from Novak Djokovic to hoist his first U.S. Open trophy.  With a total of seven titles, Nadal topped his peers in 2010.

For Roger Federer, this year was a mixed bag.  After grabbing his sixteenth major in Australia, Federer had a fourth round loss at the Sony Ericsson Open to Tomas Berdych which sent him into a tailspin.  As defending champion at the French Open, Federer was beaten in the quarterfinals by Robin Soderling which ended an unprecedented streak of twenty-three consecutive semifinals at the majors.  Furthermore, defending champ Federer was ousted in the quarterfinals by Berdych at Wimbledon.  In fact, Federer’s ranking dropped to number three, his lowest since November 2003.  Yet, with his second title of the season at the Cincinnati Masters, Federer seemed again on the right road.  However, Federer failed to take advantage of match points in the U.S. Open semifinals against Djokovic and went down in flames.  After the New York fiasco, Federer resurfaced with a fresh coach, Paul Annacone, and won three of four finals including the ATP World Tour finals where he toppled Nadal.

The Australian Open appeared a turning point for Andy Murray.  Easily handled in the final by Federer, Murray could do nothing right with the racket for a while. Eventually at Wimbledon, Murray advanced to the semifinals only to be disappointed by Nadal.  With the defense of his title at the Rogers Cup, Murray seemed to be back.  But, another setback occurred at the U.S. Open where Murray was stunned in the third round by Stanislas Wawrinka.  In besting Federer in the Shanghai Masters final, Murray looked to be heading for a strong finish.  Yet, at the ATP World Tour Finals, Murray took another  downturn.  This was emblematic of the Scot’s tumultuous year which included a rupture with coach Miles Maclagan, a brief ceding of the world number four spot to Soderling and only two titles.

With solely two titles and a U.S. Open final appearance, Djokovic had a so-so year.  The Serb even ascended to number two for a bit, but finished at number three.  While individual success was sparse, Djokovic led his country to its first Davis Cup title.  Along with countryman Viktor Troicki, Djokovic mounted a brilliant comeback to stop France from a tenth trophy.

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Roger Federer Beats Rafael Nadal for His Fifth ATP World Tour Finals Title

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Roger Federer Beats Rafael Nadal for His Fifth ATP World Tour Finals Title

Today, Roger Federer claimed his fifth year-end ATP finals title with a superlative performance over a defiant, but defeated world number one, Rafael Nadal, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

In the 22nd meeting of an illustrious rivalry that will leave a great legacy for the game for years to come, Nadal and Federer captivated audiences world-wide with a final that sparkled with explosive shot making, drama and as many twists and turns as a Shakespeare play.

The world number one and two are polar opposites with one thing in common; an extraordinary will to win. While many began to question Federer’s mental strength following his failure to capitalize on two match points against an often mentally fragile Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the US Open earlier in the year, Federer seemed to have shrugged off any niggling doubts of his own authority in matches in the run up to the final.

Questions have also been raised about Nadal’s physical problems.  A shoulder injury in his serving arm caused Nadal to take a five week break before the ATP Finals and his recurring knee problems are always a concern.  Many wondered how Nadal’s body would cope after a grueling three set match against Britain’s Andy Murray in the semi-finals.   The tennis world waited with baited breath to see how the latest act in tennis’ greatest rivalry since Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras would play out.

In the opening set, Nadal described Federer as “unplayable” and it was evident from the outset that the Swiss Maestro was back to his absolute best. The players went tactically toe to toe until the seventh game when Nadal’s continued tactic of playing to Federer’s backhand backfired spectacularly.  With a superb cross court winner from that wing, Federer gained the break of serve.  Then, the former world number one closed out the first set 6-3 with a forehand winner in just 32 minutes.

But, with a dramatic swing of momentum, like an incensed lion released from its cage, Nadal characteristically pounced on Federer’s drop in form in the second set.  By switching tactics, Nadal secured a break of serve in the fourth game through working the Federer forehand with spectacular success. Federer took a tumble in the fifth game following an unkind net cord for Nadal and so did his form, allowing the Spaniard to pull ahead with a comfortable 4-1 lead.

The remainder of the second set went with serve.  Nadal held his nerve after losing the first point when serving out the set at 5-3 by finishing Federer off with a wonderfully executed backhand slice right at the master’s feet. Game on.

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