I don't often start a column with the phrase "All tennis eyes will be on Chile" yet here I find myself, confronting just such a reality. In fact, the last time even a few tennis eyes were on Chile was in 2004 during the Athens Olympics...and I mean this in the kindest way possible, but that was out of disbelief more than anything else. Nobody in their right mind would have expected to utter the words "Nicolas Massu, two-time gold medalist".
This time, Chile will literally draw the attention of the entire tennis community. We'll be watching. We'll be analyzing. And you can guarantee that television ratings for the Vina Del Mar tournament will outstrip any previous installment many-fold. Why? Because Rafa is there. And when I say "is", I mean that he actually got on a real honest-to-goodness airplane and flew to South America.
We were skeptical, you see. He was supposed to be back for Abu Dhabi and then the Australian Open...but that didn't materialize. The official line from the Nadal camp was that Rafa was struck with a virus that left him unable to prepare properly...but there were also eyewitness reports from people in Mallorca saying that his knees weren't up to the task yet...and we all wondered if maybe the injuries were even worse than he let on. And there was a low, constant droning from those of us in the business that sounded suspiciously like fear...because maybe this was going to be Borg 2.0. Maybe we would talk about Rafa's knees the way we did Guga's hips. Nobody wanted to say the word retirement, but hell yeah we were thinking it.
I don't believe I would be out of line to proclaim the tennis world relieved...with the exception of the men's fields in Vina Del Mar, Sao Paulo and Acapulco, who are probably not as excited as the rest of us are -- not that they'll be willing to say so out loud. Some Argentine journalist is surely going to ask Joao Sousa how he feels having Rafa in the field, and he's going to have to say, "Yes, it's VERY exciting to have him back" when he'll really be thinking "What do I think? I think it SUCKS" or whatever the equivalent of 'sucks' is in Portuguese.
Whether, indeed, it will actually suck to have him there remains to be seen. Most of us are hoping it DOES suck for Sousa and company because more than anything else, we want Rafa the clay warrior back again. We want to know that come Roland Garros time, we will be treated to Rafa working his spells at his most magical of venues. I won't be so bold as to claim that "everyone" wants Mr. Nadal to win the French Open again...but a true fan of the sport will want what we've always wanted -- and that is to watch the best play each other for the highest tennis stakes.
Want to know why the Wimbledon 2008 final is still talked about as the greatest match of all time? Because we were able to experience two of the sport's greatest players pull out all the stops. Because we all knew that Roger reigned supreme on grass and it took a near super-human effort on the part of Rafa to de-throne him. But it still would have qualified as the greatest match ever played, had Federer won.
If Novak Djokovic is to claim his most elusive of Grand Slam titles, it should happen against the best of the best...and that's Rafa.
But in the meantime, we have a small 250-level tournament in which to gauge Rafa's readiness to step back on his crushed-brick throne. And after analyzing his every swing of the racket, and slide into a forehand, after we search for every hidden nuance of his post-match pressers, we'll sit back and say, "Thank God he's back."
Sat 06/07 06:31
Tennistalk says farewell
Thu 06/06 04:05
Novak Djokovic's unsung hero
Tue 21/05 15:52
Another Federer and Nadal match disappoints
Fri 17/05 18:03
Bill Tilden and the effects of moral bankruptcy on a legacy
Tue 19/03 21:01
Professor Federer teaches us a thing or two
Mon 18/03 15:43
Nadal makes the cleverest comeback in tennis history
Fri 01/02 22:00
Nadal's return at Vina del Mar
Thu 15/11 16:54
Federer and company make no room at the top for youth
Tue 11/09 20:24
Murray joins the ranks of Grand Slam elite
Fri 17/08 19:45
There is something about Roger Federer
Mon 13/08 23:05
Tennistalk is in Cincinnati again
Tue 12/06 16:21
The French Open, Nadal's personal playground
Wed 09/05 14:58
Novak Djokovic takes up skating at the Madrid ice rink
Thu 29/03 14:30
Nadal and Spain give French TV a punch in the mouth
|1. Djokovic||12 500 pts|
|2. Murray||8 750 pts|
|3. Federer||8 670 pts|
|4. Ferrer||6 970 pts|
|5. Nadal||6 385 pts|
Scan QR code to access Unibet mobile.
Bet on Sports wherever you are and whenever you like, with Unibet's quick and simple mobile client you can place bets, check results and see live odds.
For more info about QR codes & scanners click here.