Wow, that's REALLY disgusting.
1. Can Novak be the king of clay without beating Rafa at RG?
I think that if he were to be considered the king of clay if he beat Nadal in the RG final
that he could be considered the K.O.C. even if he didn't. However, in either scenario, I wouldn't consider him THE
King of Clay, but rather the 2011 King of Clay.
2. Does Rafa need to beat Novak at RG or does it even matter?
Depends on who you ask. I think the tennis world feels that in order for Nadal to retain his clay status that he must upend the man who has threatened his throne. But many will say that Nadal has thoroughly proved himself so beating Novak would simply be a formality. But honestly, if he didn't, it just wouldn't "feel" right.
3. If anybody but these two wins this tournament, does it even mean anything?
Interesting question. I guess it would sort of be like when Schiavone won. Ultimately, it would come down to WHO won. If someone outside the top 4 won, it would make a great tennis narrative but would essentially be considered a fluke and have no bearing on the favorite for future slams. It will mean a great deal for the winner but won't impact the current standing of the tennis world.
4. ESPN guys say, Rafa losing to Novak here could start a new era. What If Rafa loses to someone else.
Well, Nadal HAS already lost to someone else: Robin Soderling. There wasn't the perception of a "new era" so I guess it really depends on whether this person beats Nadal, wins the French Open, stays consistent and relevant. Otherwise.....no new era.