Belfast Telegraph

Champagne super Novak rocks Rafa

By Billy Weir

Saturday night was, according to Elton John, just fine and dandy for a bit of fisticuffs, but if it's tennis you want then you have to fast forward a couple of evenings.

The final of the ATP World Tour filled a handy gap on the schedules for Sky with no Monday Night Football while the alternative of FA Cup First Round action on BT Sport with Port Vale playing Shortwood United, who had beaten Melchester Rovers in the previous round, wasn't hugely appealing.

So it was off to the 02 Arena in London, where the headline acts were two men who have been vying for the No.1 spot in the smash hit parade all year, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic (pictured).

Quite a few had wangled their way onto the guest list, presenter Marcus Buckland joined by a gloriously red-socked Boris Becker, the fascinating creature that is Annabel Croft and the many-toothed Canadian that is Greg Rusedski while commentator Mark Petchey turned up beside the massive TV to talk to us.

This was all hours before the main event, because like after the visit of a careless coalman, we had to wade our way through the doubles to get to what we really wanted.

But the underlying current of music was never far away. Annabel, who manages to straddle a narrow line that makes you wonder is she actually quite good or is she as thick as a top hand sliced loaf, started talking about Djokovic being 'Mr Rubberman'.

So while we had 'Rubba, Rubba' in our heads, Boris was telling us that being No.1 was 'the name of the game, they want to be in the record books' while with the doubles finally gone it was time to start. Nearly. Firstly we had to contend with Leif Shiras, confined to a cupboard for the pointless interview of the players before the match, a gig that Boris was turned down for, and then Matthew Kelly came on to introduce the players who appeared through a smoke-filled doorway.

"The stage is set, the warm-up band is over, it's the Rafa and Novak 360 Tour for one night only at the 02 and let's hope they rock it," said Petchey and this musical analogy continued.

During changeovers music blasted out. The first couple I caught were Ever Fallen In LOVE With Someone and Your LOVE Lifts Me Higher and I was spotting a theme, but couldn't concentrate because Rafa kept fiddling with his shorts, with Boris commenting he needed to get Djokovic 'out of his comfort zone'.

He'd have been better served rinsing his shorts through with a dash of Comfort so he could concentrate, although it was hard enough playing in an auditorium akin to a Smurfs brothel, but as Nadal struggled Boris insisted 'it's not over until the fat lady sings the blues'.

At this stage had Adele been played I would have collapsed, but instead we had a blast of ELO's Don't Bring Me Down – just as well the final wasn't at the Ballymena Showgrounds – and then it was all over and time to get out of the blue (For the less tragic among you, this is an ELO album).

So champagne for super Novak, a glug of warm Barley Water for Rafa, as David Bowie reminded us that number twos could be heroes, just for one evening.

Belfast Telegraph

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