I'm still in a bit of shock. I honestly can't believe Nole pulled off the come from behind win over Rafa. I'm not sure why I can't believe it. Clearly Nole's given me no reason to have any doubts about his game. But after Rafa took the first set and Nole's body language seemed to indicate a tired and resigned boy, I thought it was just a matter of time. I totally get the Serbian fatalism and I thought that Nole accepted the fact that his luck had run out and that he was ok with it running out against Rafa. He just didn't seem to have the fire that he had yesterday.
But just as with Fed yesterday, Rafa was the one who blinked. He struggled with his serve, serving 25% first serves in in the second set, allowing Nole's confidence to grow and giving him more and more looks at second serves. At one point Nole would reel off six straight games, quite a feat considering Rafa had only been broken three times in the tournament. It got to the point that Rafa turned negative, scowling after easy misses, barking at his box, and generally, to quote BG, "looking disheveled."
The win not only gets Nole yet another huge title this year, besting both Fed and Rafa back-to-back, but it breaks Nole's 0-5 streak against Rafa in finals. It also earned him the deserved title of the best tennis player in the world right now, a title that would be much more tenuous had he lost to Rafa.
It's hard not to watch Nole these days and think "Well, your luck has to run out at some point, right?" Indian Wells was all about Nole, both on court and off. The kid has swagger. Whether it was bageling opponents on court, yukking it up on the practice courts and field, or he and his team camping out in the middle of the player cafe/courtyard, laughing loudly and generally drawing attention to themselves, he has been ever-present. I keep waiting (though not hoping) for the day that he pulls an Icarus and comes crashing down. But he's on a 20-match win streak (dating back to Davis Cup) and it's actually 23 matches if you include Hopman Cup. Other than these two matches against Fed and Rafa, he has looked absolutely untouchable, playing an unmatched level of tennis. While there's no reason to think he can't run his streak to at least 27 in Miami, I can't shake that nagging feeling that it has to end soon.
So let's enjoy the ride for now. It's a pleasure to watch.