THE BLOG

Brilliant Display From Djokovic and Nadal in Paris

10/06/2013 23:13 BST | Updated 09/08/2013 10:12 BST

It is a truth universally acknowledged that men's professional tennis presently boasts one of its finest generations of players, and last Friday Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic produced a sporting contest of mammoth proportions at the French Open.

The levels the top players reach continue to rise. Let's remember that Roger Federer can claim to be the greatest player of all time and only a matter of years ago he was the best in the world. Despite having at least maintained this level, he now stands at three in the rankings.

As individual tennis players, the top four of Djokovic, Murray, Federer and Nadal have an air of impenetrability, and it is remarkable that such players have all arrived at once.

Exceptional athletes, like David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Jo Wilfred Tsonga lie in their wake, and in other eras could have reaped greater rewards for their industry, receiving more attention than they currently do.

Friday's semi final contest was, aside from the hideous grunting with which the players persist, beguiling and thrilling. The dry and dusty clay courts at Roland Garros that the Spaniard clearly loves make for gruelling but crowd pleasing tennis. The slow paced reaction of the ball off the surface must make winning rallies seem like having teeth extracted, for the players that is. On hard courts hitting winners is usually a little easier, but having said that, with the supreme athletic ability which the players now regularly demonstrate, the rallies are often savage on all surfaces.

After four hours in sapping heat, both players showed stupendous mental fortitude, trading blow for blow with precise and powerful baseline tennis. Much of it was about who could respond, or whose belief would not waver during the deadlock, and in such brutal conditions, embroiled in combat and bereft of oxygen and energy, this is painfully tough.

I know this feeling only too well, where two players are so closely matched, and where it seems like winning each rally is an insurmountable task, and it often makes for the most fascinating sport.

Of course Nadal won the match but it would be too severe to say Djokovic was weak. The closest he came in the fifth set to weakness was through misjudging a volley, touching the net too early, giving Nadal the opportunity to break serve. Perhaps losing his cool with the umpire didn't help either.

An inspiring display from two tennis players at the peak of their powers, in one of the sport's big arenas. Sport to be celebrated.

James' book 'Shot and A Ghost' is available at willstrop.co.uk or on kindle