In early 2009, the no. 1 Rafael Nadal took another big step towards tennis glory, capturing his first Australian Open title and winning three of four Majors. Rafa deepened in the last two meetings in Melbourne. The Spaniard spent nine and a half hours on the court against Fernando Verdasco and Roger Federer to claim five-set triumphs and add another remarkable crown to the impressive collection of the 22-year-old.
Taking a week off, he no. 1 returned to action in Rotterdam and was hoping for a better run than a year ago. Winner of a single indoor title at Madrid 2005, Nadal survived severe challenges against Simone Bolelli, Grigor Dimitrov and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, spending eight and a half hours on court to lose energy and stamina.
In the semi-finals, the Spaniard defeated Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-4 for the first indoor ATP final since Paris 2007 and set up the title clash against Andy Murray. After one hour and 51 minutes, the Briton prevailed 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 to lift the trophy.
Despite winning the second set, Rafa had nothing left in the tank in the decider, powerless against the rival who won the tenth ATP title. Murray served him four times and secured seven breaks from 12 chances to emerge on top.
Andy had more winners and fewer unforced errors, beating Rafa in the shorter rallies to four shots and keeping pace with his rival in the longer ones to cross the finish line first. Nadal squandered a break chance at 1-1 in the first set after a loose backhand and hit another at 2-3 to experience a break and fall behind 4-2.
Serving at 5-3, the Brit held to love with an ace down the T-line and gathered momentum before set number two.
Nadal has a habit of performing a series of rituals
In a recent interview at Cantabria Labs, Rafael Nadal talked about his views on tennis, calling it a "mentally aggressive sport" that requires a lot of focus.
"Tennis is a mentally aggressive sport. It demands you at all times. One has to be able to find a way to be focused on what one is doing almost 100%, without being distracted by external things," said Nadal. "I achieve that state of concentration by doing all the rituals I do.
I don't know if it's something positive or negative, but it works for me. I have some rituals that help me feel focused on what I'm doing. It's the way to differentiate when I'm competing from the rest of my life," added the World No. 5.