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Djokovic is super-human

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Jonathan Overend | 07:55 UK time, Monday, 30 January 2012

I assure you I'm not, but I feel hungover.

You find me demolishing a takeaway, watching a re-run of the final set and wondering, in that hazy, morning-after way, what on earth happened and was it for real?!

My head feels like the opening scenes from "The Hangover" movies. Something pretty major happened last night. I think.

Yes it did, the TV tells me so. It's just a case of piecing it all together to establish how.

So, apart from half a chicken, doused in reality-awakening hot sauce, the only thing that can save me is my trusty notepad.

At the end of most major finals these days, this looks like the dossier of a maths whizz, or crazed computer programmer - all numbers, circles, marks and scrawls.

Overend

Jonathan Overend's maths wizardry says this was one of the greatest Grand Slam finals in modern times. Photo: BBC

It tells me this was one of the greatest matches of all time. The longest Grand Slam final by almost an hour, the longest match in Australian Open history and, most importantly, an era-defining epic in the same way the Federer-Nadal Wimbledon final from 2008 was.

That, I still believe, having paused for some contemplation and sweetcorn between last sentence and this, was a better match.

The level of both men that afternoon and gloomy evening at SW19 was so consistently high throughout and it remains the most memorable contest I have seen or commentated on.

Last night the first set was cagey and not great quality. Sets two and three were dominated by Djokovic. Nadal was too deep and dropping too many balls short. At that stage it was not a classic.

But what made the Australian Open final of 2012 so remarkable was the intensity, the rage, the rebellion, the sheer quality, so late in the match.

Remember both Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal had been severely tested in the second week of this tournament.

Novak by Lleyton Hewitt, David Ferrer and Andy Murray, Rafa by Berdych and Federer.

Both were running on fumes towards the end of the final but, in the sixth hour of their furious fight, they produced some of the best tennis of the fortnight. Some of the best tennis we've ever seen.

And I thought Djokovic was gone. Three times.

I thought he was gone at the end of the fourth set when Nadal levelled the match and fell to his knees.

Nadal

 Rafael Nadal falls on his knees after recovering from 2-1 down to level the match 2-2. Photo: Getty  

What an image, that will stay with me forever.

And who could blame him? It was an incredible recovery having trailed 3-4 0-40 in that fourth set. His serve had more bite, his depth was greater and his flashing forehand came out to play.

I've never seen someone celebrate like that with a match still in progress.

I thought Djokovic was all but gone in the seventh game of the decider. Nadal led 4-2 and, at 30-15, had a relatively straightforward backhand pass up the line. But he put it wide, lost his serve and Novak was suddenly back in it.

And then, after the first point of the ninth game, I thought Djokovic really had gone. After five-and-a-half hours, a 31-shot rally played out on the Nadal serve saw fierce hitting, unerring accuracy, intensity rising with every blow. Djokovic finally missed and collapsed to the floor.

The magnificent Nadal bounced and snarled. Game over? It felt like it.

But a final twist remained in the script as Djokovic, somehow, found first-serve after first-serve, deep forehand after deep forehand, thunderous return after thunderous return. He won the last three games with skill, guts and total self-belief.

And so this amazing era just keeps pushing boundaries and moving the sport to unknown, uncharted territories.

From now on it's all about match-ups. Djokovic has Nadal's number, just as Nadal dominates Federer. Federer enjoys playing Novak more than Rafa and Andy Murray plays his best against Nadal, although got so close to Djokovic.

We are nearing the point where we need to start awarding draws in tennis. Get them back for a replay in midweek. Djokovic won that final but it felt like a point apiece.

And I get the impression the players - the leading quartet - are becoming increasing philosophical in defeat. Murray sounded positive and relaxed after losing to Djokovic, while Nadal dealt with defeat with his customary humour and graciousness.

Federer also seemed at peace despite losing in the semis.

Yes, a loss hurts but that's offset by the enjoyment and reward of playing in the greatest era. The knowledge that, some day soon, each will have his day against someone else in this golden group.

For now, Djokovic is the undisputed number one. He has won three consecutive majors, four of the last five, and at Roland Garros will try to hold all four at the same time.

Over a 54-hour period, from 7.30pm Friday to 1.30am Monday local time, he spent almost 11 hours playing incredible tennis against two of the best players in the world.

He won both matches 7-5 in the fifth set. He is super-human.

Djokovic really is a true champion of modern day sport.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Nice blog Jonathan, but i must take issue with other media and yourself constantly referring to a "leading quartet" or "big 4" in the mens game. Yes the same 4 seem to make the semi finals with increasing regularity, but the reality is it's a big 3 who have 31 grand slams between them. The facts show that it's a big 3 with Murray clearly best of the chasing pack, though Del Potro is the one with the slam, which was one incidentally by beating two of the big 3.

  • Comment number 2.

    Going to repost what I said initially after the match (which I put on hold for a prolonged lunch with my family and still watched the majority of)

    'Need to hit the ball as hard as I can now, cross-court preferably so that he has to run to retrieve it. Ok it's coming back to me on the opposite side of the court, pretty fast too, I must run. Ok I've only just cleared the net, need to hit harder next shot.

    13 minutes later I am leading 1-0. He is on serve now.'

    Would I pay to watch the match today? Heck no! 6 hours of women's tennis? Heck no! 6 hours of repetitive point construction? Heck no! 6 hours of time wasting between points? Heck no! 6 hours of blatant dialogue with the player's box? Heck no!

    The surfaces and balls must revert to a time when this was an exciting "blink-and-you've-missed-it" entertainment. This is not tennis, it's carambole billiards.

    Today's match underlines the worrying trend, players won't be able to finish points and their bodies won't last the distance (career wise) unless they use PED's to recuperate.

    Save tennis now, or it will die a slow death.

  • Comment number 3.

    What are 'unchartered territories'? I think you mean uncharted.

  • Comment number 4.

    Congratulations, posters #1 and #2, for SPECTACULARLY missing the point...

    If you don't enjoy it (and I'm pretty sure most of the people who will bother posting on here will do), don't bother watching/listening/reading the live text.

    You DO have other choices. Exercise one of those and leave those of us loving every last second of it to enjoy an amazing era of men's tennis colliding with what is shaping up to be a very competitive era of women's tennis.

    When these four men are gone, and they will be soon enough, unless they're replaced IMMEDIATELY by something of similar quality, then tennis is much more likely to struggle.

  • Comment number 5.

    Federer/Nadal at Wimbledon in 2008 is still my favourite final, mostly because the points tended to be a lot shorter and faster-paced, and there were the subplots of the rain delays keeping it going hours longer than it was supposed to and whether or not they'd had to finish the fifth set on the Monday due to the lack of light. Couple that with the fact that it marked a true changing of the guard and you have an unforgettable final. There have been some other amazing finals in the last few years like the 2007 and 2009 Wimbledon finals and the Rome Masters finals in 2005 and 2006, but I think yesterday's match tops all of them simply due to circumstance. Only a couple of years ago Djokovic had a reputation for a) choking on the big stage and failing to deal with the pressure of being a Grand Slam champion, and b) not having the stamina to last five sets regularly. If ever there was an occasion that completely rid him of these demons, winning a near-six hour final against the grittiest player on the tour two days after beating Murray from two sets to one down is going to do it for him. Any other player, including Federer, would have let their shoulders sag after going a break down in the fifth set against Nadal (in fact, that's exactly what happened with Federer in the 2009 final), but Djokovic just refused to lose that way. True, he got lucky with Nadal's choked backhand at 30-15 on his own serve, but in a way he probably deserved it. Anyone that can have such a hold over Nadal in the last two years and stay with him for that long in a final is going to sow doubts in his mind (again, see Nadal/Federer), and Nadal finally cracked somewhat.

    I'm still buzzing from this match, it had so many different stories interlinking and Djokovic is quickly establishing himself as one of the all-time greats of the sport. Praise should also go to Nadal for his part in such a great match and in his wonderfully humble post-match speech. This is a very good time for men's tennis, and for women's tennis for that matter with Kvitova and Azarenka leading the charge.

  • Comment number 6.

    Epic final, amazing endurance shown by both players, especially the Djoker. To play for 11 hours in 3 days is just mental. Kudos to the guy who was not so long ago accused by media and fellow players even to feign injury and tiredness during long matches. He has truly shown the meaning of the word 'belief' in tennis. In fact, Novak has been saying for a while that he has not changed anything in his game but he just has more 'belief' when he plays the big matches against the top guys. You dont need any more evidence than his performance yesterday. It has been said before, but I will repeat again, we are seriously priveleged to watch the mens tennis in this day and age. You have to feel for Nadal, he has never been dominated like this before. His emotions will be similar to what Federer felt when he lost the AO final in 2009, exhausted opponent who had a day less to recover coming up trumps. I see Novak winning many more slams unless Murray steps up. The mental advantage Nadal has over Fed is now less daunting coz that no longer guarantees him a slam. In a strange way, Nadal will depend on Federer to knock off Novak in future slams if the draw pans out such that we have Andy-Rafa and Roger-Novak SFs. Roger has shown (at least currently, till Murray ups the ante) that he is the only guy who can compete and beat Novak playing at his best. As for now, Roger's slam count is safe as Novak and Rafa (and probably Andy) will share slams over the next 3 years at least.
    Imaging if Murray also steps up and gets that 'belief' that he can not only win a slam but beat two of the top 4 in the process. We are in for a treat, as if we are not in already!!

  • Comment number 7.

    Russelljones - stick to monster truck rallies in future, son. I can't even count the number of different groups you've insulted with your uninformed attempt at stirring the pot. You haven't got a clue what you're on about.

  • Comment number 8.

    Great match and worthy winner but Novak has to start acting like a world number one. I found his antics after the match disrespectful to Rafa.
    He has to stop his antics/tactics during the game. One minute he is "dying" and the next minute he is leaping around like a gazelle. The other players are onto him and don't take any notice of his slumps but I wish he would cut it out.

  • Comment number 9.

    Re 4. Teffers - don't you mean when the three are gone. All i'm asking is why do we compare Murray in the same circles a multi grand slam winners, we should compare him to the chasing pack of which he is the best.

  • Comment number 10.

    The final will be remembered in years to come more for its duration and the willpower and endurance of the two protagonists rather than for the quality of the tennis which was uneven. It was a magnificent slugfest with few strokes of pure artistry. Nadal V Federer in 2008 was infinitely more varied; in terms if games played it was also a longer match (62 games as opposed to 55).

    Interesting that you say "Federer seemed at peace despite losing in the semis".
    That's because it was against Nadal whom he respects enormously and does not believe he can beat in Slams anyway. Also Nadal is such a gentleman win or lose. He wasn't so gracious after his semi final defeat against Djokovic at the US Open. I think that Djoko's personality and antics irk Federer.

  • Comment number 11.

    Waiting for genuine fans of the sport to have their say.. (although the BBC has become less and less informative about tennis sans the mention of a customary early exit on the part of every British player with the exception of Murray)

    Hilarious that someone mentioned Djokovic's 'feigned' injuries being something of the past. Did you or did you not watch the match? He's a class act.

    As to offending groups, I haven't a clue what you're possibly referring to. Having watched this sport as long as I have and played it. I know what is being sacrificed for TV money and how it is affecting professional tennis players' bodies. I also have a fair idea of where this will take the game and how the physical pressures will sow a dishonest culture in a previously gentlemanly sport. I am obviously concerned about the imminent arrival of mass performance enhancing drugs. Those a 14 year old will take to speed up his evolution into a contender on super slow courts.

    I don't hold it agaist you if you don't understand this. I think it's alarming that a sports journalist would call one of the dullest Men's Finals between a world #1 and #2 as one of the greatest ever. The appaling surface and balls together with huge time wasting gave you a long match. They handed out a trophy at the end. That's all that it was.

    Anyone who's watched tennis from the last 3 decades knows the game can be truly spectacular. One of the biggest reasons fans are interested in the sport and this interest grew in the past 10 years is Roger Federer. When he retires you will see a huge ebb. And it will be because of the reasons outlined in my original post.

  • Comment number 12.

    Epic match and congratulations to both players on their endurance. Was it as great match? - I am not sure.

    Both players can play better than they did and the long rallies and lack of outright winners made the match a bit tedious at times.

    I have the greatest of admiration for their fortitude, athleticism and skill but the best matches to me are those between opposing styles e.g. Borg/McEnroe, Sampras/Agassi and Federer/Nadal.

    With the slowing down of the surfaces the baseline rallies are starting to dominate, serve and volley can no longer win matches at the highest level - perhaps the organisers should look at this rather than have a homogenous style of play across the surfaces.

    That takes nothing away from the two men concerned, who were both sporting before and after the match. It is simply my opinion that the subtleties of the game are being lost in the gladiatorial nature of the evolving game.

  • Comment number 13.

    The quality of tennis that has been witnessed this week has been truly memorable. We seem to be seeing players continue to raise their game against each other, and increasingly it seems to be about the mental aspect of tennis. Djokovic currently has the right mind set and as a result that makes him very difficult to beat. Previously, it was Federer who had the mental edge and it leaves one wondering whether or not Murray will ever be able to develop the correct mental attitude and mental toughness to be able to beat the players ranked ahead of him.

    I am a big fan of Murray and I don't think he could have done a lot more when he played against Djokovic. However, Had Murray have lost the 4th set against Djokovic rather than the other way round, I suspect that Murray would have been beaten in 4 sets rather then the mentally tough Djokovic turning round and winning in 5.

    The big question for Murray is whether or not Lendl will prove to be the missing ingredient and give him the mental toughness that he requires in order to finally beat the top 3 in a grand slam tournament?

  • Comment number 14.

    Re. (9) because Murray is closer to the other three than he is to the rest of the field. 6 semis and 3 runners up spots is by far and away better than anything below. You could also argue that Murray had a better year than Federer last year in the slams. Of course Federer has 16 to his name, but Murray has been getting closer more recently.

  • Comment number 15.

    @ #9 - think this hits the nail for me. Murray is very, very good, and you cannot deny his membership of the 'big 4' (I don't have time to trawl the stats, but I wonder in the last four years how many times the semis haven't comprised these same players? Not many, I'd suggest, showing amazing consistency)

    However the simple reality is that if you're picking a winner of a Major, it has to be from the top three - and right now, you wouldn't bet against Djoko, would you?

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    Absolutely epic final which was probably the greatest match I ever remember watching.

    On the subject of Murray I am sorry to say in my opinion he doesn't have what it takes to win a slam. If he had all the ingredients to do it he would have by now and I think we should all face the fact he never will. The current top three will continue to dominate and other up andcoming players will break through meaning Murray will continue to be the nearly man.

    Lendl will probably improve Murray's game but he won't change what goes on in his head. If proof were needed about Murray's mental ability to play tough matches you only have to look at the fourth set against Djokovic.

  • Comment number 18.

    Re.: #1 and #9, Mark, no, I meant the four. Though Murray has yet to win any (and when you consider that, between them, the other have three have won nearly eight years' worth of majors between them I don't think there's that much criticism to be levelled at him) he has shown he belongs in their company more so than in the company of the rest by consistently getting to these last-four stages and beyond.

    Were he not doing this consistently, and 'only' getting to the quarters at most then you could put him in that bracket. If you want to be desperately pedantic about it then Murray belongs in a class of his own at present - not yet in the big three but consistently better than 5 downwards and has been for a long time.

    His SF with Djokovic on Friday was the first time I've watched him and been utterly convinced that HE believed he could do it. Yes, the longer the wait goes on the more people will question him, the greater the pressure will become, the more frustrated he will become and, honestly, the less likely it is to happen... but he's not even into his late 20s yet.

    Put another way, your argument is slightly spurious in that Hewitt and Roddick are both Grand Slam winners. Are you honestly telling me that, on their day (given that their eras have overlapped) at their best they would have beaten him in a final? I just don't think so. But does their winning Grand Slams mean they're better than him? Your logic would seem to suggest so. I think JMDP's bad luck with injuries deprived a potential fifth player in this group when he was approaching what looked like that level (his US Open victory would seem to suggest he was getting there). Can he get back there? Will his body allow him to? All these things we don't know but your dismissal of Murray because he hasn't yet won a big one is disingenuous. I think it's exciting, also, that so many of the big players really seem to be talking up the importance of the Olympics this year. But I guess even if Murray were to win that you wouldn't be satisfied!

    In the same way as some people bemoaned Henman's career coming at the same time as Sampras', Murray is unlucky to be playing at the same time as three guys who could all legitimately claim (or in Djokovic's case may in future be able to claim) to be among the best players the sport has ever seen.

    But Murray seems alright with that, indeed seems spurred on by that.

    The other thing I wanted to pick up on was something Jonathan said in his blog but on which I had a slightly different slant: the top four match-ups. My own thought is that Murray seems to be getting much closer to competing with Djokovic, while Federer has Murray's number, Rafa Federer's and Djokovic Nadal's.

    Long may this power struggle continue. To the haters, go and watch something else!

  • Comment number 19.

    Tim Henman was the best player to ever grace the game! FACT

  • Comment number 20.

    Re.: 15# by your logic there is no big three then, is there? There's Djokovic then the rest...

  • Comment number 21.

    ok Mark
    Murray should not have been counted along side the top 3 previously to this tournament. Although he has always had the talent to mix it at the top, he was a choker mentally unable to cope when facing the best. He showed in his match with Djokervic that he now does have the capacity to deal with the pressure and henceforth shall be a contender of whom the other 3 are aware could beat them. definitely no longer just one of the chasing pack.
    Russeljones I share your concerns about all surfaces now being very slow and wearing out the players as they look to hit harder and harder. But Federer has proved that natural talent will still rise to the top with perfect timing and the equipment these days impact can be minimal. I worry for the loss of serve volley and the contrast that brings to matches but have to admire the unbelievable ground shots that are being hit.
    Mr Overend i feel that 2009 wimbledon and 2010 A.O finals were the best because of the contrasting style between Fed's and Nadal in which the quality of tennis was about 0.01% lower but Djokervic has undoubtedly raised that bar again can Nadal and Murray or any new young contenders catch him ? i cant wait for the French to find out.

  • Comment number 22.

    Those blogging here and denying the magnificence of the final match are displaying a brilliant misunderstanding of what makes a sports match great. It is not merely the technical mastery of the sport's techniques that makes a great spectacle but more compelling is the human story - the sheer will to dominate, the self belief that you are the best, the physical stamina, the ability to look at your opponent and say "you will not beat me." - Mohammad Ali vs George Foreman was not a technically great fight, but can anyone deny that the human story told on that night made a legend of the victor ? And so to Sunday at the AO, grumble all you like about the length of the game, the lack of great technical shots, but the human story told yesterday is what makes this what it was - A great tennis match that will go down in the history of the game and rightly so !

  • Comment number 23.

    Totally agree with Russeljones.
    Men's tennis has become a slug-fest. A battle of fitness and stamina. Sure, there was the occasional great shot and rally but it was hardly the greatest match of all time. Spare me the hyperbole.
    Finesse has been sacrificed and that is why the future of tennis will be these 5 set *epic* encounters full of sweat, ripped t-shirts but little quality. Federer is paying the price as are the other very talented players.

  • Comment number 24.

    Anyone else thinking the equal prize money debate deserves to be reopened? It's terribly un-pc, I know, but there's a significant gulf between the men's and women's games right now in terms of the product being served up.

    Personally, I still rate the Nadal-Federer Australian final of 2009 as the greatest Final of the present era, but this is the very definition of splitting hairs. Each of the epics is extraordinary in its own right.

  • Comment number 25.

    I also agree the womens game just does not stand up 6-3 6-0 pathetic. half the top 20 can not even serve on the women's side.

  • Comment number 26.

    Whew I thought I was the only exception in not thinking this was a truly amazing match. Yes it was good and there were some nice exchanges but it was very one dimentional in terms of shot making from both of them.

    I agree with the comment on match-ups and it will be interesting to see how this develops in the next few years.

    Great era in tennis we're in but what worries me is the guys that will be following. Nadal and now Djokovic have taken the physical element to a new level- so the drift in future will continue to be towards athletic ability over shot making.

  • Comment number 27.

    Just to slighlty change topic.

    Congrats to Liam Broady and Josh Ward-Hibbert on their Ozzy Open Boys Doubles Triump. Hope his is a good omen from Mens British Tennis in the future.

  • Comment number 28.

    I found this year's Men's final hard going. I watched it with a rotten cold, and was drifting off during the first 3 sets. Nadal's aggressive intention hadn't been implemented, and there were a few points lost more than won. The rallies were physically demanding, but they weren't breathtaking. That being said, I found myself quite surprised to be supporting Nadal, before the match began I was indifferent. So it certainly had some psychological trick that I hadn't quite cottoned on to.
    I am glad, therefore, that the 4th set showed us a true battle. Nadal's backhand can be marked as good as the improvements to his service - he notably had a weapon in that shot. Crediting a player's improvements gives me great pleasure, and I saw some in Rafa's game. It was interesting to see the footwork of both players as they maintained such high quality rallies while playing away from eachothers' strengths. The mental game was a joy to watch during sets 4 and 5.
    For me, I was on the edge of my seat as Rafa saved 3 break points at 3-4 0-40. I was with him when he went to his knees after taking the 4th on a tie-break.
    At this stage, I still couldn't call the match. I'd admit I would have said Rafa was 51% favourite at that point.
    You may all forget that during the US Open final, it was Nadal who uncharacteristically failed to maintain the intensity and ran out of steam during their 4th set.
    But today's 5th set, Nole just needed to thrive on the positives of winning points.
    I felt it a little clumsy of him to drop to the ground so dramatically after losing a long rally, but he still had fight in him. He made Ndal play the points, and I'll believe that you could read into both players body language. Nadal looked shattered during the 5th set just as much as Djokovic.

    Now, my quick comments for the top of the men's game? Someone mentioned 'match-ups'. Very, very true.
    Murray can take his game to Nadal a lot better than he can with other players on the Grand Slam scene. I quote former US Open semis.
    Federer, in my view, hasn't been CONVINCINGLY beaten by anyone apart from Rafa.
    I still don't know how he lost to Djokovic from 2 sets up, twice?
    I still say that the Federer-Djokovic matches are in Federer's favour. That will change sharply the older Roger gets.
    Murray is NOW with the top 4. He hasn't been, although he has been capable of playing at their equal at times, moreso in ATP finals rather than Grand Slams. But he's reached 3 GS finals and looks much more of a presence on court this year. Physically so. The way he moves and constructs points is highly talented. His mental game will improve, especially now he can draw from the experience of matching Djokovic in a 5 set thriller.

    I should also point out something that I only learned the other day. Novak has an extra 2 years experience than Murray on the professional tour.

  • Comment number 29.

    A great match and truly great win by Nole. He is showing the world what a wonderful player he has become. He is my countryman from Serbia, and he has made us very proud! Serbia is producing amazing tennis talent, from a country with little resources. Well done Nole you deserve the limelight!

  • Comment number 30.

    26 - Agreed, in terms of quality it wasn't the best match (although some of those rallies I think I must have dreamed), but it was so gripping, and though I tend to drift in between matches sometimes, this held my attention all the way through.

    There were instances where both players seemed down and out, only to tear up the cript yet again. Though it was a great touch to get them chairs during the monotonous ceremony!

  • Comment number 31.

    As someone else said Nadal's game is simply retrieval and brutal slugging. If the surfaces hadn't slowed down so dramatically in the last ten years Nadal would only have ever won the French and Federer would have had 20 or more slams. The fact is that there is a big three until Murray wins a slam and Djoko is currently and deservedly the best player in the world. Unfortunately the future of tennis doesn't look bright as finesse is ditched in favour of hard hitting. By the time Djoko and co have reached their late twenties, tennis will be dominated by a new generation of 6 foot 6 beanpoles slugging away at the baseline.

  • Comment number 32.

    Murray? "Big 4" That's rather illustrious company and a very bewildering conclusion on your part.

    Whatever reality altering beverage your drinking, I'll have one too.

  • Comment number 33.

    @24 "Personally, I still rate the Nadal-Federer Australian final of 2009 as the greatest Final of the present era, "

    I agree, while a great match I thought people/pundits got carried away with saying this was the greatest match ever. I think naturally selective memory (esp so soon after the finish) led people to remember only the last set and a half when Rafa made a game of it - when he did the tennis was absolutely incredible, however the first 3 sets were too much of a scrappy affair with loose errors (understandably as these two push beyond their limits) for this to have been the greatest match ever...

    imo AUS 09 and Wimbledon 08 finals were more consistently briliant

  • Comment number 34.

    Interesting point about being philosophical in defeat. Both Nadal and Djokovic summed it up perfectly after the match - their enjoyment, while winning the trophies is obviously the incentive, is as much in pushing themselves physically and mentally to the point that they are completely spent once the last ball has been played. The top 4 are only satisfied if they have put their body and soul on the line and if they lose, then so be it.

    Without harping on about our own sports stars (especially tennis players), the level of commitment and desire that you have to show to achieve the rewards is immense - and the fact that Andy Murray is competing at that level (well, almost), is a testament to him and should be used as an example to our up and coming talent.

  • Comment number 35.

    I've read above about Novak playing the game..

    well let me ask those this:
    Nadal serves Novak returns a clear winner for the point, Nadal then disputes his own serve to be out. 1 challenge used - ball was in. Point replayed (serves into the body and wins the point he just really just lost ) he did this more than once throughout the match along with delaying the match by running to net to check the ball mark on the otherside.

    this is Sportsmanship at its best...

    But I do agree with the others you refer to murray being part of a big 4 - out of kindness as he has been runner up in 3 slams. but can we ever see him ever winning one?

    Novak was in the same position second fiddle to the big two fed and Nad, but hard work took him to become part of the Big three. When is Murray to make it a Big four - this year, next year, Nadal, Novak and murray are all roughly the same age not much hope there then.

  • Comment number 36.

    16. At 11:43 30th Jan 2012, diamondnharris wrote:

    A 1 hour 22 minute (6-3, 6-0) thrashing compared to a 5 hour 53 minute epic, and that after Djokovic's 4 hour 50 minute semi-final against Murray, and Azarenka walks away with the same amount. A complete joke.

    ===================================

    Regardless of your point re: playing 5 sets, the margin of winning (i.e. a 2 set thrashing vs a 5 set battle) has nothing to do with the prize fund, sure.

    To make the point a little clearer - would you deny less prize money to Djokovic if he had won 6-3, 6-0, 6-0?

    Your argument is surely about the number of sets they play - not about how convincingly they win.

  • Comment number 37.

    And this demostrates why women shouldn't get the same prize money as men. How many women's matches are this enterataining? How many go on for longer than two hours?

    Why are women paid more than men in tennis? They work fewer hours for the same money.

  • Comment number 38.

    As a lot of people are saying, the quality of tennis was not particularly high: how many 30-shot rallies hit as hard as possible, only for the medium-paced Plexicushion surface to slow the ball down and let it sit up perfectly for the return can you watch before thinking, "hang on - isn't this getting rather repetitive?"

    Of course, the general public don't care about that - they want their money's worth and if it takes 6 hours to finish a final, then so be it.

    Modern-day tennis court-surfaces were never slowed down because of public perception, they were slowed down for business reasons. They don't want variety, what they want is the top players (and usually the Top 4 seeds) making it to the semi-fnals / finals to satisfy businesses paying millions to sponsor events.

    That is why courts are homogenized now, insurance for big business to maximize profit. They have accomplished what they set out to do in the first place. They can write the top four players into the semis practically ANY venue on any surface. This is what they sell to sponsors and advertisers that are paying millions of dollars, this is where they make their big money.

    Unfrotunately guys like Jonathan Overend can't write things like this because he'd probably be out of a job, so he has to go the Barker/Castle/Llloyd route and write was has to be written.
    Former greats and the media will always claim 'never seen a match like it before' or 'wow! tennis from another planet' because:
    a) they'd too, be out of a job
    b) they need to keep tennis' popularity at a certain level

    Long match = great match?
    Hummmmm...not neccessarily.

    Oh and the title of this article, 'Djokovic is super-human' - and all because of a new fitness program and gluten-free diet?
    VERY interesting...and I bet some of the other pros are thinking: "two intense matches totalling 11 hours in 3 days?"

    Time for some rigourous Tour de France testing...

  • Comment number 39.

    I don't understand why people are talking about the men's game being a 'slug fest' based on 2 games in the AO.

    What about all the other matches? Would you put them in the same category?

    Also, Murray is often considered in the top 4 based on the masters results he has acheived and that he can beat the top 3 in that. The GS events are the main prize but not necessarily the be-all and end-all.

  • Comment number 40.

    "Personally, I still rate the Nadal-Federer Australian final of 2009 as the greatest Final of the present era"

    Have to agree in terms of quality of tennis for the first four sets, I got up with a stinking hangover and couldn't believe what I saw from those two. I am a Nadal fan so maybe biased. Yesterday was a great match in terms of drama, Nadal hanging on in the 4th set, taking the advantage in the 5th, I thought he had it too, and then Djokovic fighting back. The quality of tennis was high but not extraordinary as in Aus 2009 or Wimbledon 07 and 08.

    The match ups are interesting, I thought Nadal had clearly improved from last year against Djokovic, just not enough, the serve and backhand seem more reliable and he seems to be going for more winners, he put a lot of forehands out in the tramlines. Federer seems to do better against Djokovic because he can protect his serve and can still hit winners against djokovic which the Nadal and Murray struggle to do consistently, whereas Djokovic yesterday was still able to take Nadal's serve apart.

    Murray as people have said is in the second tier of the top four, where Federer is as well (only on the basis of the last five majors). The semi-final was a big-step for Murray, but the step he needs to make is belief as Djokovic alluded to. Djokovic's game is still similar to the one he was playing when he lost from two sets up at the French Open in 2010, when he was on the second tier of the big four but he hits big shots now at vital moments because he has belief they will go in.

  • Comment number 41.

    Nice blog as usual Jonathan.

    I am quite amused by people complaining about the quality of the match. If you think back to a few years ago, everyone was talking about how to slow the balls down, reduce the power of the racquets etc in order to get more rallies because there were too many aces (Sampras!) and short rallies. That never happened, but instead the top players took it upon themselves to further professionalise the game. They have got themselves so fit that they can now retrieve shots from almost unthinkable positions and so the rallies are a lot longer. That was what people were asking for and now apparently they go on too long and are one dimensional and boring. It's ridiculous!

    The top players now have taken tennis to a completely new level particularly in terms of athleticism and defence. It's really hard to hit winners against Djokovic, Nadal and Murray because they are so quick and their defence is so good. Djokovic and Nadal in particular have taken the art of defence to an incredible level and that's why the statistics from the final were so skewed. The reason they both hit more "unforced" errors than winners is that it's so difficult to hit clean winners against them. There were plenty of rallies containing incredible shots that in years gone by or against other opponents would have been over far quicker, but both players can retrieve balls from almost impossible situations.

    However, the top players haven't just made improvements in defence. Djokovic is able to make Nadal look almost pedestrian at times. This is a guy whose defensive abilities were hitherto unparalleled in the history of the game. I don't remember anyone breaking him down and hitting so many winners against him like Djokovic does. Tsonga completely overpowered him in 2008 and Federer has done it on occasions, but Djokovic can do it off forehand and backhand completely at will. There is no weakness in his game. I can see why people would think Nadal is one dimensional because he is quite defensive but Djokovic played extremely attacking tennis - he was returning Nadal's serve within a foot or two of the baseline almost every time, standing up to the baseline and taking the ball on the rise, dictating play, working Nadal from side to side at will off forehand and backhand. When Agassi started doing that, it was a completely new phenomenon and people were amazed by it - but Djokovic is doing exactly the same thing against players who are faster, fitter and better defensively, while being much faster, better defensively, and having a better serve than Agassi. He's an incredible player. I'm a huge Nadal fan but he's simply not able to dominate rallies in the same way. He tried it a few times but he kept mistiming it, particularly on the return of serve and on the backhand generally. Djokovic often takes balls almost on the half volley, which is why he's able to dominate the rallies so effectively. It's an absolute triumph of hard work, technique, skill and raw ability.

    In terms of the match ups, I don't think it's a huge surprise how they turn out if you think about it. Nadal preys on weaknesses and it's very hard to finish him off. Federer's backhand is a beautiful shot but Nadal serves there almost every time because he knows he won't concede winners there. He can also dominate rallies by working Federer's backhand with his cross court forehand until the gap opens up. Nadal can't do that against Djokovic because (1) he has no discernible weakness and particularly (2) his backhand is the best out there. If Nadal tries to work Djokovic's backhand, he will just haemorrhage backhand winners down the line. In fact, it tends to work the opposite - Djokovic attacks Nadal's backhand (which is relatively weak) and dominates the rallies like that. He's the only player so far who can dominate Nadal without making too many mistakes, given that Nadal gets so much back. It will be interesting to see Murray play Nadal with his new attacking style. He also has a fantastic backhand so theoretically he could beat him. I disagree that Murray plays his best tennis against Nadal though Jonathan. He has played him plenty of times in Slams now and other than when Nadal was injured he has pretty much failed to trouble him, surely?

    I do think it's sad that people are complaining about the standards. This is an absolute golden age. People seemed fairly convinced that Federer is the GOAT and when Nadal was consistently beating him in 2008-2010, people started saying that maybe it was Nadal. And yet here you have a guy who beats them both consistently. Time will tell whether Djokovic will end up with the same sort of Slam tally as Nadal and Federer but give him his dues - over the last year he's been practically unplayable in the most competitive era that tennis has ever seen.

  • Comment number 42.

    Awesome final, up there with the very best. Djorkovic just about deserved it and it sets up another intriguing tennis year.

    Someone mentioned about equal prize money for both men and women and in the interests of equality the Aussie Open reflects this...

    BUT as a paying spectator (having attended the Aussie Open & Wimbledon), I would never ever pay to watch Women's tennis or any WTA event. Making them play 5 sets is NOT the answer. I want them to get off the court as quickly as possible!

  • Comment number 43.

    The shame is that there can now never be any "pure" (not sure that is the right word) players any more. The whole of the mens game is based on stamina and strength, both admirable qualities for sure, but touch, and guile seems to have been blasted away forever. The match yesterday was great drama, but the quality was poor, and at least of the five hours fifty three minutes was taken up by Nadal ALWAYS taking longer than is allowed between points, and Djokovic's never ending ball bouncing. Couple this with Nadal querying calls for the sake of it (must be outlawed) and the total time of play would be nearer two hours.
    The so called more aggresive side to Nadals play never came out, as I suspect it never will.
    I also agree with the earlier posts regarding the Ladies game. I doubt that the quality levels have ever been so far behind the Mens game, and it is an insult to the paying public to have equal purses. The game of tennis does itself no credit by pretending that ladies should be paid the same as the mens draw.

  • Comment number 44.

    RF the best player Ever by a mile..but how lucky we are to have Rafa and Nole..you have to beat whats in front off you,my grandfather told me! you don't just turn up,you have to work for the right to be the best,my hat off to Rafa you never give up no matter how you play,Nole who like rafa has stepped up to the plate! both amazing champs! we all have are own reason's on who's the best.. thats why the banter is so good..RF has all way's been a winner,his goal has been the Olympics,thats when your see him beat all before him,as for andy murrey in Ivan you have some one that will turn you in too a GS winner.. long may it go on..

  • Comment number 45.

    I have no worries for Nadal. Unlike in 2011, his warrior instinct and tenacity is back! Nadal should be pleased he was able to match Djokovic physically and mentally, which he could not do in 2011 when "Djoko the Great" beat him six times in succession.

    Whatever Nadal is working on in his game, he should take heart that his task came close to bearing fruit! Like he did losing tough Winmby finals to Fed, I expect he'll be back to dismantle Djoko. He could have won yesterday, but evidence if needed of the thin margins between success and failure during games of extremely high intensity!

    I look forward to more battles between these two, but Nadal has more reason for optimism. For now Djoko rules and is staking his claim for GOAT, hence it's for those beneath him to respond.

  • Comment number 46.

    Post 41 - cawarra84
    Djokovic - yes he showed his mettle very well in this match down 4-2 in the 5th, the Murray semi-final match and against Federer at US Open semis last year.

    Being down 2 sets to 1 to Murray, you just knew if Murray let up in the 4th, he would lose it. You just don't give a champion #1 player a life-line. You keep the pedal on.

    Really, c'mon...there is something amiss here, big time. Maybe he could win Tour de France too. This is a guy came on the tour, pretty good player from the off, but tiring out and gasping for air through 3 or 4 set matches and QUITTING to nowadays going back to back 5-setters with NO PROBLEM. And it is all because of a new fitness program and no gluten???

    We know baseball players, cyclists, football, and some Argentine tennis players did it and were suspended/stripped of titles.

    Nadal, I do not see him as a doper because even when he was 17 he was doing 4 and 5 sets with no problem. All players can get more pop in their serve from changing their mechanics which is not related to stamina.
    However, I do see a nice change in Novak's serve which looks natural though. However, the same annoying 10-to-15 second ball bouncing (down from 25 seconds a few yrs ago).

    Endurance and stamina is not learned that dramatically, it is enhanced. And surely Djoker is getting some 'performance juice'.
    Doing an almost 5 hour set with Murray, then close to 6 hours with Nadal 2 days later?
    No chance.

  • Comment number 47.

    I greatly enjoyed the match yesterday and don't understand how anyone could have found it boring. However everyone is entitled to their opinion! I still personally rate the Wimbledon final as better since it represented such a major sea-change at the top of the sport. Previous to that Nadal had not come particularly close on grass against the best ever on that surface, Federer. However we already knew that Djokovic could beat Nadal on the hard court. That said, I thought Djokovic's legs had gone, so from that point of view it was epic!

    On the issue of equal pay, this is something that winds me up a lot. Having calculated the time spent on court during this Open by Djokovic and Asazrenka, I found that almost to the minute, Djokovic spent twice as long playing. Clearly by anyone's measure, an equal prize fund is therefore bizarre. I disagree that the pay should be based on 'entertainment' or 'quality' as this is highly subjective as evidenced by this blog! Additionally, it is not the fault of the winning women that the competition is undeniably poorer than between the top men.

    My opinion is that women should play the best of 5 as well. I do not understand why they don't, since there would be no disadvantage to them as it is women v women not women v men! Until they start playing best of 5, I think they should be paid less. That's my view anyway...

  • Comment number 48.

    I kind of just reflect that tennis is truly blessed at the moment with these four guys producing classic after classic at all the Grand Slams. For me, the highest quality tennis I ever saw was last year's semi in Paris between Federer and Djokovic. I guess it doesn't qualify as a classic as it was only four sets, but I've never seen stuff like it, from both men. Quite astonishing.....

    Two absolute classics last week, Federer-Djokovic at the US Open as well, they just keep coming.

    I kind of get the feeling that the women might start doing it too.

    Good time to watch tennis, all in all........

  • Comment number 49.

    i love tennis

  • Comment number 50.

    There's no doubt it was a phenomenal game with blistering shots from begining to end. How these guys can play that consistently for so long beggars belief.
    I would agree with previous posters though that for sheer quality of tennis the AO of 2009 between Federer and Rafa is the best game I have ever seen

  • Comment number 51.

    i love tennis too

  • Comment number 52.

    Alleging that any player is improving his performance 'unnaturally' (Silver Surfer 13:13) based on nothing more than 'your opinion' is an appalling thing to do and surely puts you on dangerous legal ground.

    Just because you don't understand something doesn't make them cheats. For your information, Djokovic has Coeliac Disease, and I don't believe he was fully aware of it or its impact until recently. Once this condition was diagnosed and his diet rectified he saw an enormous increase in physical condition that has nothing to do with 'unnatural enhancements'. It was simply his underlying condition that he could not access.

    Be very careful who you accuse of cheating without evidence.

  • Comment number 53.

    44simonbray. "you have to beat what's in front of you, my grandfather said"

    Did you really need your grandfather to tell you that? Is it not obvious? I am assuming that gramps thought his grandson unblessed in the brain department.

  • Comment number 54.

    In response to comment 1 and in Jonathan's defence, it seems reasonable to me to refer to 'the big 4' of men's tennis. They have been the leading four players in the rankings for a considerable period and Murray has made each of the last five grand slam semi finals. It is correct to say that the top three have dominated the slams but at the level below these, the Masters 1000, Murray's recent record stands comparison with anyone. It is a shame in a sense for Andy that he has to compete in the same era as these three titans but what a story to tell your grandchildren!

  • Comment number 55.

    I agree with Russeljones and those concerned for the future of tennis. I am pretty sure I will stop watching once Federer has retired as there is virtually nobody else out there consistently playing first-strike tennis. Yesterday's match (longer than it needed to be due to longer time taken between points than is allowed) was just a war of attrition in the end and there was no flair about it. I'm a bit of a purist so I got bored. The quality was not as high throughout as previous Nadal-Federer or even Federer-Djokovic semi-finals and finals that have been contested.

    I'm not interested in who is the better athlete if quality takes a back seat. Organisers have got to be asking questions of themselves if there are hard courts out there that play almost as slow as some clay courts. See below:

    http://www.menstennisforums.com/showthread.php?t=186368

  • Comment number 56.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 57.

    Russeljones and fatclyde are entirely right, in my opinion.

    A friend at work - who missed the match - asked me what it was like. I said: "You could've recorded 4 or 5 of the points, replayed them on random loop for 6 hours - and wouldn't have known the difference.....".

    Yes Djoko and Rafa are SUPREME athletes, immensely strong and fit and super-determined. But I have to say it's not nice to watch. And even the psychological battle being played out is not that interesting - though it is more interesting than the tennis itself. There is no finesse in the game, very little artistry and it's just become a slug-fest between super-robots.

    And I know that none of the other slams are going to be any different: all surfaces are so similar now - consistent bounce, slowish speed - that the winner will always now be a baseliner with all-courter competence (ie can hit winnners, will occasionally venture competently to net).

    Shame really.....

  • Comment number 58.

    "Really, c'mon...there is something amiss here, big time. Maybe he could win Tour de France too. This is a guy came on the tour, pretty good player from the off, but tiring out and gasping for air through 3 or 4 set matches and QUITTING to nowadays going back to back 5-setters with NO PROBLEM. And it is all because of a new fitness program and no gluten???"

    As a Nadal fan I think this a ludicrous suggestion, otherwise personal trainers and fitness coaches should all be fired. Fitness is psychological as much as anything, but training is equally responsible.

    I can only assume you know very little about performance enhancing drugs, fitness training and wheat allergy.

  • Comment number 59.

    Interesting blog.

    Much of what I would like to say has already been discussed at length. My own personal views on yesterday's final:

    1. It was undoubtedly one of the most engaging and exciting GS finals in history, and when not totally overcome with anxiety with all the twists and turns, I really enjoyed it. However, although the stamina and resilience of both players is unprecedented, it is evident that the excitement and 'epicness' of this final is more to do with the longevity of the drama, and not necessarily due to variety of play, style, elan and accuracy. This is why for me, the Borg-McEnroe Wimbledon final of 1980, and even the McEnroe-Connors final of 1984 are better examples of 'quality' tennis. I do feel that tennis is being redefined in the current era as a 'war of attrition' from the baseline; as opposed to taking the game by forcing winners and being aggressive. In 2-3 years, serve-and-volley will become as arcane as horses and carts - if not so already.

    2. A running theme over the last 12 months - there is a perception among pundits, commentators and 'fans' alike that Nadal should be winning titles 'by right'. On balance, his recent GS (and ATP tour) final defeats have been more about 'what Nadal can do to get back' rather than praising the efforts of Djokovic in raising his game and rising to the challenge. There remains an excessive indulgence on Nadal - particularly from the BBC - and even after yesterday, the inherent belief held by many that 'things will be back to normal, Nadal will win again eventually', suggests that this should be the order of things - not so. On the whole, he has been outplayed, out-thought and now out-lasted from a frankly better opponent in the last 12 months. Fan adulation is one thing, but being a poster-boy for a sport should not allow disproportionate bias from commentators, pundits and yes, even blog-writers.

    3. Perhaps after yesterday, the casual armchair tennis fan can finally appreciate what a Herculean effort Murray will need to expend to wrestle any of these major titles from Djokovic and Nadal. Since January 2005, I can only think of two GS winners outside of the Djokovic-Nadal-Federer triumverate: Safin (AO 2005) and Del Potro (US 2009). That is almost 7 years of exclusive dominance from the big three.

    As a minor gripe, does anyone else find the 'Live Text' on the BBC coverage has become very self-indulgent and overly sarcastic - pretentious, even? And as for trying to get a Tweet mentioned during a match, forget it! Only the exclusive few ever seem to be selected!

  • Comment number 60.

    sliver surfer : I see you as a strong Nadal supporter who can accept his tennis hero is now a runner up losing his magical powers?

    but as you against Novak being even fitter: as he has also had a sinus operation to help with his breathing can you please explian the following actions by Nadal.

    Nadal serves Novak returns a clear winner for the point, Nadal then disputes his own serve to be out. 1 challenge used - ball was in. Point replayed (serves into the body and wins the point he just really just lost ) he did this more than once throughout the match along with delaying the match by running to net to check the ball mark on the otherside.

  • Comment number 61.

    @Post 41 - cawarra84

    What a tremendous post, I was going to say something similar (although maybe not put so well), so now I don't need to bother to try.

    I personally don't think that any top-level sport around the world is currently being played to the level that is being played by the best tennis players.

    My teenage years were in the 90s and there were constant complaints how the game was all about power, rallies between one and three shots and even games which were won by four aces. The level is just so good now that it is impossible for that to happen. Goran Ivanisevic - tremendous character though he was - made a career out of one shot, his serve. How many sets used to go to a tie-break because the big players would never drop a service game? Now the level is so high that the top players are broken by each other constantly. Slowing the courts down has inhanced the game as no player can rely on a heavy serve and the possibility of sneaking the set on a tie-break - it's far better.

    And for those who say the likes of Rafa and Nole lack guile, I don't necessarily think that is true. I actually think they have it in abundance, but due to their oppenent's fitness it takes something truly unvelievable to win a 'crafty' point.

    This is a spacial era and, in my opinion, is only rivalled by the McEnroe, Borg, Conners era (although I didn't witness that - just what I've heard and seen on replays). It needs to be enjoyed and appreciated as in four or five years' time it will be over.

  • Comment number 62.

    Well, how would you describe his behaviour then ?

  • Comment number 63.

    Yaozzie, I agree that the simpleton response to someone improving is "he/she must be on drugs". But did you hear Yannick Noah's accusation on Spanish sportsmen? It's worth a look.

    Also much as I'm not suggesting six hours too level tennis is a walk in the park the physical exertion is not even close to that required in other top level sports. What it does require is for the heart to adapt to interval training as well as a high anaerobic training. Tennis actually does not require superhuman levels of aerobic fitness because by definition that would mean sustaining a high heart rate constantly over a long period of time. With the absurd break after almost every point and a 90 second break every second game the heart rate fluctuates but is not constantly at s high level.

    I bet Paula Ratcliffe wished she could sit down for 90 seconds every mile during a marathon.

  • Comment number 64.

    "wheat allergy"

    Correction, sorry he has coeliac's disease not a wheat allergy.

    He did very well to ever go five sets before it was diagnosed.

    (I am a Nadal fan, but appreciate the quality and guts of the other players)

  • Comment number 65.

    Why are people going on and on about 'Big 3' or 'Big 4'? In term of achievement, it's 'Big 3'. In term of the current level of play, it's 'Big 4'. It's that simple.

  • Comment number 66.

    thanks to all those who understand that "big 4" is completely missing the point- Murray is miles behind the "big 3". as for the final well, that one did not even come close to the Federer-Nadal one. credit where its due to Djokovic but Federer and Nadal are pure class on and off court, the best role models a sport could have and Djokovic is just not at that level. too many withdraws and too many antics do not a class act make

  • Comment number 67.

    53.At 13:32 30th Jan 2012, stevieeng34 wrote

    there alway's one! look's like stevieeng34 is!! lol am sure your one off those that sit and watch ratter than play,you should trying playing the game,and when you have come talk to me..intill then stick to netball..

  • Comment number 68.

    AVM1987 wrote too many antics do not a class act make:

    I agree and thats why Nadal has gone down in many peoples eyes for the un sportsmanship behaviour he showed throughout yesterdays match.

  • Comment number 69.

    Great post here, however what is Russeljones going on about???? The match yesterday was one of the best matches I have ever seen, 2 world class players playing at the top of their game.

    As for not being able to carry on playing, Fed is a classic counter to that, he has been more less injury free his whole career. Fed is now the wrong side of 30, yet he is still plays in all the tours he can, still a major force and believe he is still improving with the new challenges of Nadal and Djokovic.

    The reason why the match lasted so long, Nadal thought Djokovic would of been exhausted from his match against Murray, so he played to tire him out, which before the match was probably a good tactic.

    For me tennis has never been this good.

  • Comment number 70.

    Ask Hewitt about Novak's unsporting behaviour !

  • Comment number 71.

    63.At 13:47 30th Jan 2012, stevieeng34 wrote:
    Yaozzie, I agree that the simpleton response to someone improving is "he/she must be on drugs". But did you hear Yannick Noah's accusation on Spanish sportsmen? It's worth a look.

    Also much as I'm not suggesting six hours too level tennis is a walk in the park the physical exertion is not even close to that required in other top level sports. What it does require is for the heart to adapt to interval training as well as a high anaerobic training. Tennis actually does not require superhuman levels of aerobic fitness because by definition that would mean sustaining a high heart rate constantly over a long period of time. With the absurd break after almost every point and a 90 second break every second game the heart rate fluctuates but is not constantly at s high level.

    I bet Paula Ratcliffe wished she could sit down for 90 seconds every mile during a marathon.

    am not sure no 64 has a clue what he is talking about!like i siad before go back to netball this is for real tennis fan's

  • Comment number 72.

    Unusually, I agree with pretty much all of the drawn conclusions in this blog. It was an epic final and memorable mainly for the 4th set tussle and drama and quality of the 5th set.
    The '08 Wimbledon final however was sustained quality and drama with every stroke
    seemingly having vital significance. Last year's US Open had a similar feel with equally high quality for 3 sets just a pity it didn't go 5 as it looked like it surely would do.
    I particularly liked the observation about Nadal Murray and Fed being philosophical in
    defeat. They can all take huge positives from the outcome but have left little room to manoeuvre in next encounters. Should they lose these by a greater margin the effects could be profound.
    It's the if buts and maybes that makes the rest of the season so enticing !

  • Comment number 73.

    sorry that was 63! lol

  • Comment number 74.

    At 13:57 30th Jan 2012, nonothing wrote:
    Why are people going on and on about 'Big 3' or 'Big 4'? In term of achievement, it's 'Big 3'. In term of the current level of play, it's 'Big 4'. It's that simple.

    Lets just take this GS, have a look at who murray played before the semis and using his own words he was bored, not nice words to the players he played. no wonder lendl said he would have been pleased for him just to reach the final as he might have to play Nole. He did and lost again.

    It is a big 3 until murray wins something of note and not just the 500's which in all honesty I think the big 3 did not always attend last year.

    Yes Nadal can take some heart from the result as he neraly beat him, but when push came to shove he also lost. We need others inside of the top 10 to stand up and be counted

  • Comment number 75.

    The women players do not earn the same as the men in grand slams, they earn more. The fact that they only play best of 3 sets means they are fresh enough to play in the doubles also. This is just not feasible for the top men.

  • Comment number 76.

    I have to say I agree with those that say it's a big 3, not a big 4. I understand the patriotic attempts to shoehorn Murray into the glittering company of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer as he is a British tennis player, but he has not won a Grand Slam and he probably never will. He just lacks that extra edge and metal strength to do so.

    Admittedly you can say that it is a strong era with the big three but I get the impression with Murray that perhaps due to the pressure heaped on decent British tennis players, he'd find a way to lose a Grand Slam semi or a final in whatever era he played in. I can't prove that of course, it's just a gut feeling but I'd stake my house on him never ever winning a Slam tournament.

  • Comment number 77.

    @Russeljones
    Are you saying that you would rather watch 2-3 shot per point tennis,with 2-3 aces per service game just because a five setter would be over in less than 3 hours? Seriously?
    The only entertaining factor in serve-and-voley tennis for me is how dumb those players look when a passing shot whizzes them by (this includes when Nadal does it to Federer).
    Otherwise,watching it would be an utter bore-fest.

    Same goes for the serve-specialists,who can only serve and play no more than 2 shots after that.When 2 of them square off it turns into a 10 hour ordeal,each unable to break the other guy's serve,with tie-breaks lasting for 30 mins each...ridiculous!

    31 shot rally on the other hand builds up a tension,because with each shot the stakes are higher considering the nerves and increasing energy the players are investing into it.

    That's where the drama really lies for me,the quality of shots and tennis will always vary from match to match,but the battle of minds and bodies is what captivates me.
    That's not to say that the 20th century players were in any way better at shot making then these guys now,they'll admit it themselves that the tennis has moved onto a completely different level since.

    It has become an extreme sport in a sense,that's correct.

    as for Women's tennis,I think that's an absolute joke...they shouldn't be paid an equal sum,definitely not - because any professional sport has funds based on their revenues and femmale tennis would not create enough public interest to justify the prize money,were in not bundled together with men's tennis at the slams.

  • Comment number 78.

    Nice article to compliment an awe inspiring match, one of the greatest ever. Isner v Mahut, Nadal v Federer, also up there in this golden era of tennis.

    A few points need to be redressed from the comments.

    1. Murray is not part of the big 4 - What nonsense, he has made it to the last 4 of the slams, on 5 consecutive occasions. He performed admirably here, making big strides forward. My only concerns are that he needs the confidence of being a slam winner, self belief is key, and that he will always have Novak and Rafa to beat on route, which makes it a big ask.

    2. The Long games nowadays are down to the tactics change, from serve and volley, to baseline rallies, in other words look forward to some even longer finals in the future lol

    3. I agree that Novak will dominate, but if Roger dropped to number 4, he is the only one currently I think who can beat him. We would have more chance of seeing a Fed Murray final IMO

    4. Its about time Women played 5 sets in a slam, I just think it would re-ignite interest in the Ladies game. Former number 1s who have never won a slam makes a mockery of the game. There is enough talent and depth in there, the problem is the seeding,

  • Comment number 79.

    Great blog and great match. I also agree with you Jonathan that this didn't compare in terms of quality to Nadal vs Federer Wimbledon '08, but the intensity throughout and pure athleticism sure surpassed that match. It was a re-defining moment, and makes 2012 a rather tricky year mentally for Nadal, no? Either way, cannot wait until May/June/July for the real business time to begin!

  • Comment number 80.

    Whether it's the Big 4 or Big 3, I don't really care.

    I now look forward to any match-up between any of the 4. My interest in tennis has come back in a big way after watching Djokovic's last 2 matches in the AO. Sporting drama at it's best!

  • Comment number 81.

    It was a classic no doubt. Anyone who has ever played tennis to a high standard knows how tired the body gets after 2-3 hours. These guys went thru hell yesterday physically.
    6 hours of sprinting, stopping, pushing off, changing direction and sprinting again is not easy.
    The only thing I would like to see in tennis now is some serve and volley players as most pros are baseliners only who come to net only to shake hands.
    Long live serve and volley I say.
    http://www.top-tennis-training.net/

  • Comment number 82.

    It was a epic battle for the ages, and really makes things interesting in the greatest of all time debate.

    http://therestijustsquandered.com/2012/01/29/threes-no-crowd/

    It was the first time i've ever seen 2 players unable to stand for the presentation. Nadal perched himself on the net and Rafa went down on his haunches during the presentation which was disgracful I might add. 2 am in the morning australian time, and the head of Kia motors rambling for about 10 mins in something that resembled Korean more so than English. At that time of the morning, just give the boys the trophies and let them say a few words. I know Kia forked out the cash, but it's only going to reflect badly on their company in that situation.

    Great match though - could not fault either of them.

  • Comment number 83.

    It was a classic no doubt. Anyone who has ever played tennis to a high standard knows how tired the body gets after 2-3 hours. These guys went thru hell yesterday physically.
    6 hours of sprinting, stopping, pushing off, changing direction and sprinting again is not easy.
    The only thing I would like to see in tennis now is some serve and volley players as most pros are baseliners only who come to net only to shake hands.
    Long live serve and volley I say.

  • Comment number 84.

    It was one of the 2 greatest ever tennis matches for me, the other being Federer - Nadal at Wimbledon 2008, both Rocky films of matches, if you made a movie about either of them, people would say they were far fetched. And the Djokavic - Murray match on Friday was up there too, must make this the best tournament conclusion ever.

  • Comment number 85.

    What does everyone think about drug testing in tennis?

  • Comment number 86.

    ND a very clear number 1 now, also an enormous gap between the top 4 and the rest; barring accidents / injury they always make the semis and here it was for the loss of only 2 sets (!) between them during the whole tournament. That's 20 matches (or 19, given the walkover for Federer in one of them).

  • Comment number 87.

    353 minutes for 369 points!! That's nearly a minute a point - which is way too long. Sure, there were some long rallies, but this is way too long. The moral seems to be: the slower you play, the more you win. If this had been Fed vs Andy or Roddick or Monfils, the same no. of points would have taken 2 hours less! The laws of the game allow 20 seconds between points in slams: Nole and Rafa were averaging nearer 40 seconds. If they weren't awarded this unlawful recovery time, they couldn't play this way - and shot makers like Fed. (and Andy) would be rewarded.

  • Comment number 88.

    Great match although maybe it should be pointed out that this cannot be registered as a longest match record... both players averaged 10 seconds over the allowed 20 seconds for a serve! I don't know how many points were played in this match but I would guess the time would add up 2 mins per game. Totalling 55 games, this is almost 2 hours (incl Tie-Break) Consider Roddick v Federer Wimbledon 2009.. they had 15 secs between each point but played 77 games

  • Comment number 89.

    I'm not a great tennis fan although I do tend to watch a fair bit of Wimbledon. I accidentally switched on this match at the start of the 4th set and remained absolutely enthralled. OK, a few wild shots but very few from 2 guys who must have been running on pure guts and determination. One thing for sure and I'm very sorry to say but all the while these two plus Federer remain fit, Murray is likely to remain a decent No. 4.

  • Comment number 90.

    This final made me appreciate how much of a fan I am of federer. Yes it was a good match, a massive struggle but the gamesmanship of both these players annoy me. Yes Nadal is gracious in defeat but he takes far too long between points and tactically challenges balls. Djokovic again bounces the ball far too many times and acts "dead" which is underhand. Federer is for me the best player ever to have played the game and I hope he will win more grandslams in the future.

  • Comment number 91.

    OUFCbackintheprem -

    I may be biased, as Djokovic is from my country, but I like to see emotion on the court, and this is what Nole and Nadal have. When I watched Federer in action at his peak, he was absolutely awesome, no doubt, but he's like ice man - no emotion.

  • Comment number 92.

    Why are so many posters talking about the 2008 Wimbledon final as being a "defining moment" and a changing of the guard? I seem to recall that Fed has won 4 majors since then and has been in at least every 1/4 final of every major!

    Good match - tense, gripping stuff - BUT take away the 40sec between each point and then I would consider it truly gruelling. Best match ever - In terms of quality? No -
    Nadal has lost 7 finals on the bounce to Jok and needs to change something to turn that around.
    Fed should consider retirement at the end of 2012 - He has made his mark, some of his records will stand the test of time and he is/was a truly inspiring player - BUT if he hangs around too long then he will lose to players not fit to tie up his boots and that would be sad

    Joker MUST get some decorum on and off the court and the shirt tearing stuff has no place in tennis - To be number one is a great honour and he needs to respect that and tone down his ego.

  • Comment number 93.

    Regretfully I missed this epic final, but the reports suggest that Djokovic and Nadal are not just great tennis players but great athletes and fighters as well...

  • Comment number 94.

    So everyone's decided to go off the deep end, fair play that's what blogging's all about.
    From my perspective, the changes in slowing down and equalising the courts, technology leading to larger sweet spots and heavier balls mean any comparison with even six or seven years ago is not possible ( Sampras would not exist as one of the top 3/4/1/2 , take you pick, irrelevent, they are seeded where they are seeded, I think the way they play against each other and their success is down to their strengths and weaknesses allied to these technological developments.

    Fed's actually a better technical player, not so mentally robust as somebody at his stage of career is want to be. But his serve is not as effective, the top spin that he ( and Nadal) are imparting is not as effective because of these technological advances. Thus allowing for less winners. more physicality, (not exactly a Nadal weakness), but it leads to this hybrid of essentially clay court tennis but with a flatter strokes, it is attritional and tactical, not very pretty matches controlling the baseline, something akin to squash with an overloaded dose of testosterone.
    The first set was drab, 2 and 3 uncompetitive, but how Nadal got out of 4 I do not know, both have got kahunas, and like Murray against Nole, Nadal didn't finish the job, but as with Fed US open semi, Nole has an unerring ability to dredge up reserves and find his serve or return. Well done.
    I think they fed each others posturing, I think Nole can be a right queen and they both acted like a couple of cocks ( though not when they talk about the game) but when you see what football brings to the table and with the level of mental and physical commitment that it has taken these two players through the second week of the tournament and after five+ hours I can forgive them anything.
    It's personality and in a way I think as well as the level of their tennis I think that's why Murray is in there.
    By the way , look at him now, physically he's a monster, mentally he may even hold his emotions together or channel them toward his opponent into the sort of controlled aggression that Nole ad Rafa thrive on, if Lendl just keeps Judy away while he shifts into maturity. I think he will be No 1 in the next two years because I think these are his conditions, he can flatten his shots, he is an exceptional shot maker, he's got it all, five mph on that second serve and finding his first serve and backing his returns in the big points, it's all conjecture but it's good fun. I love there personalities.
    My top four; 1) Federer for his grace, poise, and sheer quality (can't get as many winners, freepoints on 1st serve and so consistency exposed) would still rather watch him cut his fingernails, rather than watch most people play tennis, 2) Rafa, how does he concede the baseline and still find a way to dominate, for willpower there is only one, and the Uncle Tony team means they are the clearest thinking match players about, 3) Nole, they have all worked to improve there game but he has won 4 of the last five slams, and should have won two, fantastic, his posturing gets on my bits but he's got the guts to beat his chest, and 4) Murray because he's his own man and plus Lendl might just make a few people eat a bit of pie, they all have personality, are gentlemen and have worked relentlessly to improve their games, that's competition. which brings us to the women's game.
    The money that both men and women are playing for from my point of view is obscene, only outdone by football and golf, what a shocker, the fact that people who excel in other sporting fields still have a day job only makes it sadder. But it's all about sponsorship and economy, and the girls I am led to believe shift more units, so there you have it people, it may be less competitive, less of a spectacle, and less time consuming but they probably are of equal, if not greater value, go figure, I actually do enjoy women's tennis, but the day's of the Azarenka's and Kvitova's, are upon us, it is a new technological age of the super-athlete, gone are the Mcenroes and Nastase's , long live the ROBOVICH! lol ;-)

  • Comment number 95.

    There is a lot of talk about where Murray is at, and where he should be, and how close he is to the other three of the "big four".

    I think everyone is entitled to an opinion, but in an international context, meaning anywhere outside of the UK, discussing Murray in the same breath as multiple grand slam winners is downright odd.

    People would wonder if you were joking. I mean, what about Delpo? Murray has been fourth while he has been injured. So is it the "big five", because Delpo is in no way inferior to Murray?

    I think the operative word is "Big". It isn't the "big four", because Murray isn't big. He is promising, more or less, but he can only be "big" in the same way as players who have never won grand slams are "big".

    And so if "big" means "not having won a grand slam", then n, where "the big n", becomes very large indeed.

    So, if we are going to refrain from nonsense and jingoism, let us talk about the big three, or the top four.

    Murray is certainly, without doubt, part of the top four. Until Delpo gets back.

    But there is no big four, only the big three.

  • Comment number 96.

    Unfortunately I see this as confirmation that the brutalists have won over the artists

    Might be the longest game but a long way short of the best

    Where now for the beautiful game?

  • Comment number 97.

    Ok I have to add more
    All those disputing Murray's membership of the elite consider this, had it been the U.S open then he would have won the match against Djokervic, and probably the final too. If you do not know why this is the case then you know nothing about the sport.
    Djokervic and Nadal did take to long between points but lets just consider the magnitude of the match and the physical exertion they had already spent getting to the final. I think that a bit of extra time is granted by the umpire because of this.
    The best finals were wimbledon 08, A.O 09 because of the contrasting styles. but this final and the U.S were of equal skill and probably more determination.
    As for sportsmanship I did not like Nadal challenging his own serve but in his defense I think he believed his serve was out and made no attempt to move toward the return. Djokervic ripping his shirt, get over it! after that much effort to win he could have done a poo on the court and i would not have minded.

  • Comment number 98.

    All these argument about the "big 1/2/3/4", best ever match etc etc are all very well, but when will commentators (who should know better) and fans stop calling the tournament a "Grand Slam". The Australian, French, US Open and Wimbledon are "majors" not "Grand Slams". Winning all four majors in a career is a "career slam" and winning all four in a year is a "grand slam". What will it be called when someone wins all four "grand slams" in a year?

  • Comment number 99.

    but then i would not have to clean it up

  • Comment number 100.

    when I used the word c*cks, I was thinking of it as one might when describing the posturing of a rooster, apologies, hoping it won't be reactively moderated, and any misunderstanding means my first post is my last

 

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