Roland Garros 2013. The final photo is clear to everyone: Rafael Nadal raising the champion cup after beating David ferrer in straight sets. His eighth trophy of the Musketeers and the fourth consecutive, after the impasse of 2009. But a round before, in the semifinal against Novak Djokovic, there was a point that could have changed everything …
Rafa was on the edge. After running a 2-1 lead in sets, he found himself break down in the fifth. The ghost of a few weeks ago in Monte Carlo seemed to return to the scene. Nole wanted to repeat the feat of defeating the king of brick dust, now in his castle. He had also done it in Rome and Madrid, but it was missing here in Paris.
No. 1 was on its way. And determined to go in search of her first title at Roland Garros, the only Grand Slam that was missing from their showcases. It was clear that his end was this, against Nadal. But anxiety played a trick on him. That point. That curious point that stopped hearts for thousandths of seconds. “I should have earned that point in the 99.9% of the cases, “Djokovic marked in a conference a few hours later.” I had a little bad luck“, he tried to find explanations, resigned.
4-3 and 40-40. Just over 4 hours of action. Novak was coming off a break point. A exchange of 13 strokes. Djokovic ends up unbalancing Nadal on the reverse side and goes up to the net. Rafa’s defense is losing strength, deflating … and the No. 1 in the world throws himself on the ball. Cloudy. He just wanted to hit that yellow circumference that was slowly approaching him. It hits her, but it also hits something else: the net.
Nole is literally hung from the net. He gets up quickly, perhaps dreaming that no one has seen such a mistake. A true unforced error. Look at the umpire excited to find an explanation that was never going to come. He realizes the horror committed at the Roland Garros headquarters. Look at Nadal, maybe looking a divine forgiveness from the God of brick dust. You can’t believe it. Nobody can believe it.
At last he reacted. And he started talking to Pascal Maria, the chair umpire of the match. As if it were an explanation for a child, the French referee marked him what everyone knew: that he had touched the net and, consequently, lost the point. Nole looked for an alternative, saying that the ball was already out of court when that happened. There was no case. The decision was made. The rules are clear.
Then there was a new sample of the specialist in seizing opportunities: Rafa broke and got 4-4. Half an hour later, the end of the story had Nadal as the winner by 9-7 in the fifth set. “It was a game with many emotions,” he said in a conference after the victory. “I was always ready to fight and I was a bit lucky at 4-3. These types of duels make tennis a great sport,” he added.
Shortly after, the photo that we all know: the king of brick dust raising the cup for his eighth title in Paris. Just a few days after a point that could have changed the story of that Roland Garros 2013.