Hands up if you remember Steve Darcis. No? The unseeded Belgian who dumped Rafa Nadal out of Wimbledon?
“It’s hard to imagine where Nadal goes from here. Off of clay, he is no longer at the top”, said one American pundit after his shock loss. Rafa’s response? A 22-match win streak, culminating in the US Open title.
Nadal has grown stronger all summer on the hard courts of North America, and staked his claim to be an all-time great with a mesmerising four-set defeat of Novak Djokovic in the final. It was a spectacle of the highest order with outrageous winners, mind-boggling defence, and, of course, that 54-shot rally on break point.
The Spaniard took the first set with relative ease, before Djokovic took the ascendency and looked to have the impetus. Rafa fell 0-40 down at 4-4 in the third before coming up with the kind of aggression normally displayed by his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle namesake, finding three booming forehands and stealing the set, before cruising the fourth to take him to 3rd on the all-time Grand Slam list.
What about that Swiss bloke with the beautiful one-hander? No, not Federer. Stan Wawrinka – the man who has lived in Roger’s shadow for his whole career. He knocked out Tomas Berdych before thumping our own Andy Murray, and came ever so close to beating Djokovic in the semi-final. If he carries on this form, he may well be the man to challenge for a top 4 place.
For Federer, however, things aren’t looking so great. Yes, he may be the world’s greatest (for now), yes, he may be worth millions, but his performance against Tommy Robredo in the 4th round was borderline horrendous. So bad, in fact, that some have called on him to retire. I don’t think he has another big title in him, as much as I hate to say it – but he won’t want to end his career like that.
With all the euphoria over Nadal and Wawrinka you have to feel a bit sorry for Britain’s Dan Evans, the early story of the tournament. A rebel who swapped the nightlife of Solihull (yes, Solihull) to knuckle down and make the most of his undoubted talent by reaching the 3rd round, what’s not to like? After fighting his way through qualifying he stunned Kei Nishikori before beating Aussie Bernard Tomic – whose father John had previously said Evans “wasn’t good enough to practice with”. Up yours!
Serena Williams, as expected, won the women’s title after an epic in its own right with Victoria Azarenka, one which 90% of its viewers watched with the volume muted. It was a classic contrast between brute strength and sheer persistence, but it was power that prevailed as Serena added to her Grand Slam collection.
For now, the attention will be on Nadal who will almost certainly be world number one come the end of the year. Just five more Grand Slam titles are required to officially be classed the world’s best ever – and then nobody will remember that embarrassing defeat to Steve Darcis.