Feeling the Nadal pain now more than ever

It has been 135 days since that fateful day on the pristine grass of the All-England Lawn & Croquet Club, when Lukas Rosol turned the tennis world upside down and unceremoniously bounced Rafael Nadal from Wimbledon.

After his 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 stunner, Rosol fell to his knees, then to the turf, then fired his racket toward the net in triumph. Rafa shook hands with Rosol, picked up his conqueror’s racket with an icy cold in his eyes that we hadn’t seen in Rafa since the days when Robin Soderling roamed tennis courts, returned the item to Rosol, then stumbled off of Center Court.

Little did we know at the time, that was the last we would see of Rafa for all of 2012, and who knows how much longer. 135 days, 29 ATP tournaments, and still no Rafa.

For the Rafa Kool-Aid Drinkers and die-heard Armada bandwagon drivers, these last four months must have been unbearable. In general, however, it has to be said that the tour has done very well without one of its best and most charismatic players.

Andy Murray’s quest to give the British fans a long-awaited Wimbledon title captivated the Championships throughout the second week with Nadal out of the tournament. After a stretch of tournaments whose titles are generally reserved for vagabonds like Daniel Brands and Florent Serra (oh, and the last triumph of Andy Roddick’s career in Atlanta), the Olympics would have been up next for Nadal. His absence was a major blow, but London again got by with epics like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Milos Raonic, Roger Federer vs. Juan Martin Del Potro, and of course the end result–the biggest title (at the time) of Murray’s career.

The U.S. Open Series missed Rafa a bit, but did Rafa miss the U.S. Open Series? Probably not. He’s generally decent in Canada, but he’s about as accomplished in Cincinnati as Filippo Volandri is on a grass court. A Rafa-less fortnight in New York was tough to stomach, but also not something that was a death sentence for tennis. Roddick generated interested in week one, Del Potro and Novak Djokovic played the best set of the year, and Murray finally won a slam after a scintillating five-setter with Djoker. If anyone in Flushing Meadows was still bored, storms and gale-force winds (oh, wow, another Monday final!) woke ’em up from any Rafa-induced slumber.

Speaking of slumbers, the European fall swing is a snooze-fest even when Nadal is on tour. Honestly, the only matches I can remember from the entire fall season leading up to the world tour finals are Djokovic-Murray in Shanghai, Del Potro-Federer in Basel (not because it was great match, by any means) and every match Jerzy Janowicz played in Paris (Philipp Kohlschreiber, Marin Cilic, Andy Murray, Janko Tipsarevic, Gilles Simon, and David Ferrer….did that without the benefit of any outside source!). It wasn’t a good time of year, but would it have been considerably more interesting with Rafa? Heck no.

But now we come to the World Tour Finals, and ugh, it has been a veritable disaster.

Just think if we had enjoyed the services of one Rafael Nadal instead of one Janko Tipsarevic. Ah, how sweet might it have been. We would have had a clear-cut, evenly-matched top four (Djokovic, Federer, Murray, and Nadal) and a perfect second four as well (Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Del Potro, and Tsonga). The groups no doubt would have been mouth-watering.

Instead, we had to live through three days of Group B hell involving Federer, Del Potro, Ferrer, and Tipsarevic when we could have been on the edge of our sets drinking gulps of, say, Federer, Nadal, Berdych and Del Potro. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to watch the Fedal rivalry to slightly greater extent than I do spending one hour and nine minutes of my life that I’ll never get back sitting through a 6-3, 6-1 Federer cakewalk over Tipsarevic.

It’s not entirely Tipsarevic’s fault (although I will admit he is perhaps the biggest culprit of this week’s relative malaise in London). Substituting Nadal for Berdych, Tsonga, or even Del Potro would have breathed a different kind of life into the event. There’s a simply a different kind of energy when Rafa is around. And they don’t call it a Big 4 for nothing. When the Big 4 are in the same place at the same time, our sport isn’t just big. It’s huge. Huge to the point where even sports fans who aren’t specifically tennis fans almost want to tune in.

Rafa’s glaring absence reminds of what we–the tennis world–once had, and what we can have again. Heck, we might even get something special on Sunday and Monday with a semifinal lineup as blockbuster as Rafa-less semifinal can be. But no matter what, this week was a rude awakening to the reality of what we missed and what we have been missing for the last 135 days. It’s the same reality that makes us accept we won’t reach another tennis zenith until the Australian Open at the absolute earliest.

I’m not quite ready to emote the ending of “Titanic” in this situation, but Rafa…please…COME BACK! COME BACK! COME BAAAAAAAAAAACK!

in the same Rolex Cellini Replica style as the team replica watches. I find the engraving far more satisfying, but would have liked to see a bit more depth to it. There is a little more branding on the PRC200. Firstly, Burberry handbags the 6 oclock sub-dial sports a basketball image in grey. Additionally, the pushers are edged with red (top) and blue (bottom), Breitling Replica Watches UK which is, to me, the coolest thing.
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