The first Sunday in October isn’t only reserved for great football, but also for tennis. And that tennis is being played in Asia where all four tournament favorites reached finals this week.
In Beijing, the best rivalry in tennis continues with Rafael Nadal against Novak Djokovic. And just east in Tokyo Juan Martin Del Potro meets Milos Raonic.
First to the main event in Beijing.
Rafael Nadal v Novak Djokovic
They will meet for a 38th time and for the fifth time this year. Rafa leads 22-15 overall winning the last three since Djokovic rudely stopped his Monte Carlo run.
As for today, Djokovic went down a break early before recovering to drill Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-2. It was even easier for Nadal who got an early retirement from Tomas Berdych. Rafa led 4-2 in the first when Czech surrendered with a back injury.
The win of course moves Nadal back to No. 1, a spot he’ll likely hold until March.
“I worked hard every day with the right attitude I think, and because of that, I am today in this situation,” said Nadal. “I am No. 1 today, but it’s not [assured] for the end of the season.”
“I [won't] go to sleep tonight feeling that I am the best player of the world. That’s something that I never thought, and I don’t… think [that] now today,” said Nadal. “I played a very complete season, and that’s why I am the best in the rankings today.”
Now in this series, we know the matchup here, we know the history. Djokovic, though, has won all 18 matches at this Beijing event, however Nadal did beat him at the 2008 Beijing Olympics played on the same court.
“I know tomorrow I going to have a very tough opponent. I need to play my best, playing aggressive, playing without mistakes, being solid with my serve. If these kind of things are not happening, I will not have chances,” said Nadal. “I know what I have to do [but] it’s very difficult to do it, because the level of the opponent is unbelievable.”
Nadal already has his No. 1 ranking back and as I said yesterday, I think the hardcourt streak might be weighing him down a little – he can’t keep winning on his least favorite surface, can he? Nadal very nearly lost to Fabio Fognini Friday before coming back from a set and a break down to the Italian. Djokovic is no Fognini and even though the Serb hasn’t been playing at his highest level and even though that mental block he’s had against Nadal may be back, he needs this one more. A lot more.
With no titles since Monte Carlo he’s got to get a win.
Then there’s Rafa.
“I fight for every week, I fight every match,” Nadal reminded as if there was ever any doubt.
Winning breeds more winning and Rafa’s been doing a lot of that this year. He’s been the best.
might be is the better player here, he’s owned Novak dishing out three crushing losses. But I think Novak just needs this more so I’ll lean his way.
Going with the guy who needs the win…
The pick: Djokovic in three
Now for Tokyo.
Juan Martin Del Potro v Milos Raonic
The matchup in Tokyo features two of the biggest bruisers in the game. Few hit harder off the ground than Del Potro and you could easily make the case Raonic has the best serve in the business right now.
These two met in a controversial showdown in Canada this summer, won by Raonic when he didn’t acknowledge he hit the net late in the second set. A key moment that Del Potro never really recovered from.
As you have read from me, I’m a huge Del Potro fan. I think he’s the better player of the two and after the Montreal incident he’s got some extra motivation, some payback if you will. And Raonic strikes me as such a nice, friendly guy, so maybe he’ll feel bad about how things went in their only other meeting.
Even if the roof is closed, which would help Raonic, I still like Delpo to handle Milos’s missile-like serves and leave Japan with a title.
The pick: Del Potro in two
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