When a player as great as Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer loses a Grand Slam match, the event goes beyond being just the matter of a player winning and a player losing. It delves deeper than anyone can imagine. After all, there must be a reason why Rafa lost today in Melbourne, or why Roger lost in Wimbledon last year. These two have a winning percentage of more than 80% and probably much more in a Grand Slam, hence the occurrence of a loss is rare.
With this, the winner is almost overshadowed in the process (unless it is the other one of them, of course). As a Rafa fan, it was painful to see Australian Open’s update on facebook with all the depressed looking pictures of Rafa. Just like it would have been for Roger fans at the end of Wimbledon, when this picture was flashed ad infinitum on the several pages of media.
Right since he won the U.S. Open, it was rare that any conversation involving Nadal would not include the term “Rafa Slam.” It is another matter, that this feat has not been achieved in Men’s tennis for over 40 years now. The hype is not without substance—Rafa was clearly the best player in the world till now, and has tasted success before. But then, I see things going too far in trying to compare “Rafa Slam” with Rod Laver’s Career Grand Slam. I saw tonnes of articles on the same, and an entire fan base was busy arguing which one is a greater accomplishment.
And then, the small matter of people considering a possibility of Rafa winning six consecutive slams—French Open is his’ for the taking, and probably Wimbledon too.
Everything, today, makes no sense. What we only know is the winner of this tournament alone will have a possibility to run for a calendar Slam, and that would be too remote.
When Rafa publicly told that winning all four Slams consecutively is next to impossible, and that he is not the favorite going in to the tournament, he had a point. He knows his body is fragile, he was battling with a flu before the tournament began, and he is more prone to being upset on a hard court than Federer. Yet, we pondered all over the news as to who will have the upper hand should they meet in the final—Federer or Nadal. The same happened in the U.S. Open during the semis, and the same happened this time (although, to be frank, Ferrer d. Nadal sounds a lot like Federer d. Nadal).
I believe the reason we saw Rafa sobbing during a changeover was not because he unable to finish the ‘Rafa Slam.’ It was probably because for the second time in a row, his journey at Melbourne was being cut short due to factors outside his control. And a part of it, obviously, was because of the hype surrounding this remote possibility. As much as Rafa downplays these records, greatness, and any kind of statistics, all this talk would have gotten into his head, surely.
And yet, the media has nothing to lose. The title “Rafa Slam?” has been conveniently replaced by “Rafa Slammed!” An already big story turned into an ever bigger one. Media is a necessary evil in everything regarding any profession. And it is a small price to pay for such professionals who earn big bucks, anyway. Or is it?