Well the kid everyone loves to hate walked away with his first TMC trophy and a huge confidence booster going into the off-season. Nole overwhelmed and outplayed a serve-less Kolya, winning 61 75. And no, the match wasn't even that close.
This was the best I've seen Nole play since the AO. His shot selection was spot on. His head was totally into this match and he was constructing points and executing shots beautifully. I love smart aggressive Nole.
As for Kolya, hey, it was a great tourney for him. He should have given Nole more of a run, but here's another huge batch of points that in 10 months we'll all totally forget about when we ask "how the hell is that guy in the top 5?"
And as much as he's hated by Rafa and Fed fans around the world (more Fed fans than Rafa fans to be fair), the bottom line is that Nole keeps it interesting. Don't like his antics on the court? Fine. Don't like the stupid shit that comes flying out of his mouth sometimes? Ok. Jealous of his awesomely soft kitten-like hair (TM gauloises)? Duh. But his talent is real and his game, when it's on, is just awesome. The only question with him is the mental side. He's more of a headcase that JJ and Ana combined. I wish he'd just embrace his "I'm the guy you love to hate" mantle for a while. But I think Muzz's rise into the upper echelon of challengers to the thrown will take some attention of him and give people another lightening rod to attack. Because really, if you don't like Nole for the crap he says and does, you really shouldn't like Muzz.
So going into 2009 we've got a wide open race in Australia. We've got a Rafa that has shown he can win on hard courts, a presuably 100% healed and hungry Fed, a confident Nole with a load of points to defend, and a confident and in-form Muzz looking to bust up the big Three. And then of course there will the dangerous outliers in Jo and Elf, and bracket busters like Gilly.
Oh yeah, Nole will finish the year on 10 points behind Fed. And, most likely, Nole will go into AO 09 at #2 because Fed isn't playing any warm up tournaments in January. How nutty is that?