Djokovic-Nadal Epic Match the Greatest Ever

SubbaramanContributor IIIJanuary 29, 2012

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 29:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia (L) poses with the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup alongside Raphael Nadal of Spain with the runners-up trophy after winning the men's final match against Rafael Nadal of Spain during day fourteen of the 2012 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 29, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Lucas Dawson/Getty Images)
Lucas Dawson/Getty Images

In May 2009, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic played a brutal four-hour three-setter in Madrid. It was definitely the best tennis match I had ever seen in terms of the quality of tennis.

Unfortunately for Djokovic, he ended up losing that match and had a terrible year after that. He has gone on record stating that that defeat pushed him back mentally for a long, long time. Even in 2010, he didn't have a great start and only in the US Open later that year did he regain some of his old aura and started believing in himself.

The semifinal victory against Roger Federer in that US Open (2010) was definitely the turning point of his career. Ironically, he won against Roger in similar circumstances in the 2011 US Open semifinal.

Such is the mental nature of this incredible sport. Today, both these unbelievable sportsmen eclipsed that match by playing the greatest match in the history of the sport. I bring that match in Madrid from 2009 into reckoning because I think this defeat could have similar effects on Nadal.

Granted Nadal is not mentally fragile as what Djokovic was in those years. Still, a gut-wrenching defeat like this, especially that it came at the hands of Djokovic, has got be the worst loss of Nadal's career. Make no mistake, Rafa Nadal will never forget this match for the rest of his life, even if he goes on to win more majors.   

What remains to be seen is whether he can forget this match and recover mentally for the rest of the season. Of course, its easier said than done. But that's the beauty of this incredible sport. "Hurt" or "Emotional Pain" can sometimes lift a player or can permanently disable them. It's hard to say, but for someone like Nadal, a champion like him, one hopes that he will turn this hurt and emotional pain into something positive and motivating.

He needs to look no further than the man who has put him in this spot. Djokovic himself had emotional and mental baggage when facing Federer and Nadal a few years back. However, not only did he repeatedly defeat them in the grandest of stages, he did that by clawing back from "near-death" experiences at least a couple times. And now, he plays like a man possessed. Novak now has nerves of steel and a "nothing can faze me" attitude. He is as if saying "I am here to stay and will eventually win this battle." It can be unnerving to any opponent.

There is no shame in this defeat for Nadal, however gut-wrenching it might be and however long it might take to recover from. Today, he was a winner, too, for having taken a man who is invincible, to the cliff. He may still not have beaten Novak, but today he has figured out a way to beat him.