Normalcy has been hard to come by in the post-Covid-19 world. Yet, we got a tiny taste of it as Rafael Nadal systematically dismantled Novak Djokovic at the French Open 2020.
Sometimes you wonder how you are so lucky as a sports fan to witness such greats in the same era. In fact, some would say that this was perhaps Rafael Nadal’s greatest Grand Slam performance, even more than the time he beat Federer in a five-setter at Wimbledon in 2008.
Rafael Nadal was in imperious form as he dismantled Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2 and 7-5 in an astounding performance that earned him his 20th Grand Slam – to equal Roger Federer’s haul – and earn his 13th Roland Garros title.
There was a familiar feel to it, a sense of déjà vu, a reminder of the world that existed before a virus from Wuhan changed our lives. And yet it was different, as Nadal looked better than he had ever done before.
He looked like he had turned back time, muscle and sinew heaving like his early 20s where he was unbeatable, a clay king among rats. Djokovic has been the best player in the world for the last year – even when he’s not acting like a COVidiot – and only an errant hit that remarkably found a lineswoman prevented him from winning the US Open.
It was a freak accident of nature and the Djoker would fail to hit the linewoman if he tried it for a hundred times. But there was nothing accidental about the way Rafael Nadal beat Djokovic here. At times, his drop shots defied the laws of physics.
Yet there was nothing Djokovic could do against Rafael Nadal. A commentator noted that there was no greater sporting feat than beating Nadal in Paris and that was what it felt like as Nadal played like it was the early 2000s. The body which looked like it had been burdened by the vagaries of life and the weight of expectations seemed to have drunk from the fountain of youth, replenished after self-imposed rest.
The dawn showed the day as Rafael Nadal handed the vegan gluten-free Djokovic a bagel in the first set. It was clear that it wasn’t the Djoker’s day as he was broken in the first game. Nadal was at his imperious best even as Djokovic channelled his inner Karna to lose his footing whenever the script required him to do so.
The first set saw Rafael Nadal break the world number three times to take it 6-0. It’s not often that one sees Djokovic lose without winning a game, but Nadal wasn’t here to put a smile on that face.
The second set saw Nadal race to a 6-2 lead. Novak Djokovic channelled the deeper reservoirs in the third set, but it already felt like it was too late. Djokovic did find a couple of big serves to save a breaking point but it was too little too late as the Spaniard picked up his 20th Slam and 13th French Open.
Rafael Nadal said after the match: “Congrats to Novak for another great tournament. Sorry for today, you know. In Australia he killed me a couple of times ago. Today was for me, that’s part of the game. We’ve played plenty of times together: one day wins one, another day wins the other. So just all the best for the future, Novak.”
He added as a message for all those affected by COVID-19: “I want to send a message, everyone around the world, we are facing one of the worst moments that I think we remember in this world facing and fighting against this virus. Just keep going, stay positive and all the very best. Together probably we will go through this and we will win the virus soon.”