The Experience of Nadal Proves the Difference
By Matt Osias
Under another hot desert sun, No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal grabbed the first Master’s Series title, beating No. 12 seed Novak Djokovic 6-2, 7-5 at the Pacific Life Open. After a less than satisfactory first set performance by Djokovic, the two players battled it out in the second set, exchanging long-winded points and exciting the crowd with amazing winners.
“It was a great week for me,” Nadal said. “I had eight months without a title, but I came back with a big one.”
At the start of the match, Nadal played the role of the aggressor, demonstrating why he deserves the status of the second best player in the world. Djokovic was playing in just his first final of this caliber and he felt a little nervous, naturally.
“It is my first Master’s Series final,” Djokovic said. “The stadium was more or less packed…like 15,000 people. It was a great atmosphere, but I made a lot of mistakes, unforced errors…but I am overall satisfied with my performance today.”
Many of the fans were becoming restless towards the end of the first set, as it looked as though this would be a quick final for Nadal, but when Djokovic began to relax and play more of his style of play successfully, the crowd responded wildly for both players.
“In the second set I played more aggressive,” Nadal said. “But Djokovic played more aggressive (too). He was serving better and (had) very good attacks with his forehand.”
At on point, Djokovic’s (who hit an embarrassing 22 percent first serve percentage in the first set) serve was called out. Unhappy with the call, Djokovic decided to challenge it. As the replay slowly revealed the flight of the ball, it eventually landed what looked to be just next to the service line, though out. However, upon closer look and a 3 times magnification, the monitor showed the tiniest of portions of the ball was actually in, shifting the momentum Djokovic’s way.
Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Novak Djokovic (SRB)
“I really like the it,” Djokovic said, referring to the Hawkeye shot challenging technology. “It gives something interesting to the game, something new and the players like to be able to overrule the decisions.”
For Nadal, who has won numerous finals appearances, picked up his first Whale trophy at the Pacific Life Open, adding another tournament victory to his already impressive resume. Nadal also had one of his best serving performances of his career, not dropping serve the entire tournament.
“I was playing very good,” Nadal said. “No mistakes and very aggressive all the time. The first set was unbelievable for me.”
After the match, both players met at the net for a warm embrace. After all, both of these players are not even of legal drinking age and already represent the next generation of tennis players. Djokovic said he looks forward to another opportunity to play the Spaniard, and Nadal expressed similar plans.
Nadal’s ability to take the other players style of play out of the equation and control the tempo of play is unlike many players on the Tour today (well, with the exception of the immortal Roger Federer), and for Nadal, that may be the key to his early career success.
Hantuchova on a Roll; Wins Second Pacific Life Open
The women’s finals showcased the consistent-play of Daniela Hantuchova against the match-experienced Svetlana Kuznetsova. Hantuchova, who won this event in 2002, which coincidentally is her last WTA title, came out playing as if she had something to prove.
“I was just so confident from the first point,” Hantuchova said. “I didn’t really think about the score. I just went out there and tried to play my game, and just enjoyed every moment on the court”
Hantuchova’s win was quite impressive after noticing that going into this match, her record against Top 5 players was just an abysmal 3-25, with all three of those wins coming against the No. 4 ranked player.
Kuznetsova, however, came out looking noticeably flat, committing several unforced errors and showing signs of defeat. Despite Kuznetsova’s efforts, Hantuchova proved to be the better player on this day, winning in straight-sets 6-3, 6-4.
“ To beat her (Hantuchova) today, I had to play key moments better than I did,” Kuznetsova said. “I forced (it) a little bit more than I had to in the first set. When she was on (a) roll, it was pretty hard to stop her.”
Despite the loss, Kuznetsova will reach a career-high No. 3 in the WTA rankings just for reaching the finals.
Matt Osias can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mens Doubles – Final
 M Damm (CZE) / L Paes (IND) d  J Erlich (ISR) / A Ram (ISR) 64 64
Womens Doubles – Final
 L Raymond (USA) / S Stosur (AUS) d  Y Chan (TPE) / C Chuang (TPE) 63 75