And .5 seconds later the world changed. Apparently.
Ok, yes, it was a sweet shot. But "the best shot I've hit in my life"? I haven't even watched all that many Fed matches but I can count at least 20 shots that were more insane. But whatever floats your dick, Fed.
As for Nole, he was *so* there. He played well enough to put himself into position to take each set. But I think this match highlights what I will call, The Nole Conundrum.
Novak cares about the crowd. We all know that. He wants to be loved and he wants to be cheered for. And if this tournament will be known for anything other than 16, The Shot, The Abs, or The Failure, it will be known for Nole's Redemption. He finally played with a smile on his face and with an eye towards entertaining the crowd. No shame in any of that and I love him for all of it.
But we also know there's another side of Nole. And that is the fiery, ultra competitive, I want to beat you badly and piss in your skull side. In order for him to win Slams, he absolutely needs to let that dog out. He has to scream, pound his chest, get that crazy "I'm gonna kill you" look in his eyes. But he's so burned by what happened last year in the Roddick match that in these tight moments, against crowd faves like Fed, he refuses to let that guy take over.
And to me, that was the difference in this match. At the key moments Nole couldn't/wouldn't play with the necessary intensity. And he refused to vocalize his intent and get into Fed's head. His lack of fire made the match a foregone conclusion, despite the close scoreline.
I love Novak. Always have. And I'll continue to root for him in any match he plays (yes, even if it's against Rafa or Muzz). But if he can't figure out how to solve his Jekyl/Hyde problem he'll never win another Slam, and that to me would make him a huge underachiever.
And so Fed gets a crack at 16 against Elfie tomorrow. He hasn't lost at the USO in like, 3,000 days. So let the suspense build accordingly.