A win is a win, a title is a title, and a record is a record. Regardless of how you get there, once you do and are able to secure that notch on your belt, there should be no further discussion. We say it all the time as fans: "It doesn't matter how you get there, just get there."
But that's all a lie. It's a lie we tell ourselves as sports fans to normalize results, to add legitimacy to results that sometimes, let's face it, kind of leave a bad taste in our mouths or leave us scratching our heads. It stops us from starting sentences with the oh so groan-worthy, "Yeah, he won, but..."
So bless Novak and Rafa, who played a fantastic final yesterday and on this day, unfortunately for Nole fans, Novak showed the world precisely how good Rafa is.
I received a very gracious invitiation from Chris Chase over at Busted Racquet to participate in a live blog of the men's final (you can still read our quips here). For 3/4ths of the final, I found myself agonizing over and on behalf of Nole. There was a lot of facepalming, a lot of head dropping, a lot of "WHAT ARE YOU DOING????" cries to the heavens. It wasn't until the reality of result began to set in in the middle of the fourth set that it suddenly dawned on me:
Nole played really really well.
He really did. He didn't choke, he didn't come out out flat, he didn't have too much respect for Rafa. He came into this match and tried to stand toe-to-toe with Rafa. The Falcon threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at Rafa, and Rafa dealt with all of it.
Let's not forget, Nole saved, like, 20 break points, on a guy who came into the USO as the best in break point conversions. And Rafa didn't choke those 20 BPs away. Nole earned them. And every time you thought Nole was going to pull a Nole 1.0 and roll over, he sacked up, whipped out his gigantic schlong, and played with guts and courage. It was unbeliebable.
So why the hell am I spending paragraph after paragraph talking about Novak when Rafa's the one that made history? Because Novak's gutsy performance makes Rafa's moment even more spectacular. Perhaps the moment of the match I will always remember is Rafa serving three ridiculously placed wide serves at 15-30 at 5-4 in the third, to shut down any momentum Nole was gaining in his attempt to break back and get back into the set. That was the match in a nutshell. Nole working so hard to get a perceived advantage, and Rafa stepping up and shutting it down as Nole could do nothing but stand and watch.
To quote Fernando: Rafa was too much Rafa today.
And that's what makes Rafa's historic win that much more satisfying. On a surface that people considered his weakest, off a summer filled with confusing sub-par performances, at a time of the year everyone assumed him to be fatigued, on a stage he had never stood, faced with a more than worthy opponent who played to win, Rafa stood tall and showed every facet of him improved game, hitting shots that seemed unhittable, getting balls that seemed ungettable, and achieving a feat that no one thought was achievable when he first came on the scene, let alone a year ago.
And that's Rafa. Just when you think he can't, he does.
He's like, really annoying like that.