There came a point in Sunday's Australian Open final, where you couldn't understand anymore how either of the players was still standing. Not only standing, but running. Not only running, but getting to every ball. Not only getting to the balls, but hitting them back. Hitting them back for what should have been winners, if they were played against anyone other than Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic. As they were playing each other, we got rallies of incredible quality even five hours after the match began.
What is left after such a match is not thoughts about winning or losing. The only thing you can do is marvel at how lucky you are to have watched such amazing sportsmen give it their absolute all on court, not giving up, not breaking down, never relenting. I truly believe that Nadal and Djokovic are the two best athletes in the world today, and what's scary - they keep making the other one improve.
Djokovic has been saying for some time now that the rivalry with Federer and Nadal made him a better player. In this tournament we could see how Djokovic made Murray and Nadal better players. Faced with the challenge of Novak Version 2011, both have made some adjustments, which resulted in two of the most dramatic five setters we've seen in some time. Both players were mere points away from toppling the current No. 1, and both players left the tournament with a feeling of "Next time I can do it". If they truly believe it, this is promising to be quite an exciting year.
My main impression in the aftermath of the final was the beauty of both players' reactions to it. Drenched and exhausted, they had nothing but praise for the opponent.
"We made history tonight," said Novak in his on court speech. Most of the sentences in later interviews he gave started with "We", and this is what this match is about - not winning or losing, but two players making history. Rafa echoed the same feelings: "That was a really special match, and probably a match that gonna be in my mind not because I lost, no, because the way that we played."
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