Rafael Nadal is one mentally tough guy. After double faulting at 5-5 in the second tiebreak to put the second set on Andy Murray’s racquet, Nadal didn’t crumble, didn’t sulk and definitely didn’t go away. He seemed to get stronger. And in the end it was Nadal on top of Murray 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-4 to reach the Wimbledon finals for a fourth straight time.
On Sunday, Nadal will meet the big-blasting Czech Tomas Berdych who overpowered Novak Djokovic 6-3, 7-6(9), 6-3.
Both Djokovic and Murray have struggled coming into Wimbledon this year, and finally it showed against the better, more confident players.
What struck me most today was how composed Berdych was in his match and how well Nadal played. While Murray played aggressively, I felt Nadal played aggressively AND confidently on the bigger points. And that’s what did it. Incredible stuff.
Nadal now will be the heavy favorite against Berdych who will appear in his first career Grand Slam final. Nadal leads Tomas 7-3 in their head-to-head having won their last 6 meetings all in straight sets. And Nadal is playing well, especially after avenging his Australian Open loss today to Murray.
“When I play against him [Murray] I always see the match very, very difficult, because he makes the very difficult things very easy,” Nadal said. “So he has a good serve, and the movements are unbelievable from the baseline, no? He looks like he’s always at the way that you’re gonna play, so he’s very difficult. For that reason I think it’s one of the biggest victories in my career today.”
To his credit, I thought Murray played well and with the right intention. He wasn’t too defensive minded and I felt he was taking it too Rafa. But Nadal was just too strong a player on this day. I don’t think anyone could have beaten the Spaniard.
“I had chances in all of the sets,” Murray said who has yet to win a title on the year. “I haven’t seen the stats, but I would guess it was the difference of maybe five or six points in the match. Yeah, he just played better than me. But I’m disappointed because I had chances.”
But I still wonder about Murray. Today he went for his shots but still it wasn’t good enough. What Murray needs to do is maintain that mindset while getting better at it. It’s tough to be defensive one day and offensive the next and excel in both areas. Especially against the very best.
For Nadal, the guy went for it when it mattered the most. After that 5-5 double fault he crushed Murray’s next serve to immediately seize the point. That’s being mentally tough. There’s simply no letdown from Nadal in crunch time.
Afterward, Nadal met England’s football star David Beckham who was seated in the Royal Box for the match.
“I met him now just five minutes,” Nadal said. “But for me, what I admire a lot of him is when he’s on the stadium, he fight like the best of them, more than the rest.”
And fighting is something few players have ever done better than Nadal in tennis.
Nadal is now just three sets from his eighth career Grand Slam title which would tie him with past greats like Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl.
Speaking of Lendl, Berdych is trying to do something Lendl was never able to do: Win Wimbledon!
Berdych played one of his best matches I’ve seen from him, crisply and cleanly dispatching of Djokovic. Novak had won two prior meetings against Tomas, but today the resolve Berdych has found since that Federer win in Miami showed through again and again.
The big guy came up with clutch serves and he no longer donates flaky errors. And that makes him the force we saw today and on Wednesday in his stunner over Roger Federer.
“I felt, you know, quite tired since the morning, but then all of a sudden just came on court, feel great, and just win it in three sets,” Berdych said.
Berdych has long been called an underachiever, but he’s certainly well on his way to shedding that label after the results he’s had the past few months. And you have to feel happy for the guy. The talent has been evident, the execution has been lacking. And now it’s all coming together at the perfect time.
“Well, I mean, right now it’s great feeling so far,” Berdych said. “I’m just trying to be enjoying the victory of today. You know, I think I will try to do the same as I did after Roger. So, you know, today just be thinking about today’s match, and since tomorrow, just leave it on side and just get ready for the finals. I’m still not done yet here. One more to go.”
And so it is, one more match to go.
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