About the only suspense today’s Wimbledon men’s final offered was how many sets would be played. Three? Four? Maybe for a fourth straight year, five? In the end it was three and the winner was of course top ranked Rafael Nadal who blitzed Tomas Berdych 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 to capture his second Wimbledon trophy and his eighth overall Grand Slam title.
“For sure after not easy year for me,” Nadal said. “Be back on my favorite tournament of the world here and play well another time, and not only play well, so finish with the trophy is amazing for me.”
I thought Berdych got off to a good start but his serve just wasn’t as sharp as it has been. And he seemed to be telegraphing his shots on occasion, especially his forehand. Otherwise he played admirably for a first-time Grand Slam finalist.
Nadal, on the other hand, played like the Nadal we’ve come to expect.
In the first game of the second set with Rafa serving, Nadal uncharacteristically donated two double faults and added in multiple unforced errors, giving Berdych an early sniff at a break and with it the possibility of swinging momentum in his favor.
But Nadal as he does so often didn’t give Berdych an inch when it mattered the most. He saved the break points and with a set already in his pocket it felt Berdych’s last chance had evaporated.
“Today I was a little bit more nervous than usual,” Nadal said after winning his second straight Slam and second straight Wimbledon. “I was a little bit lucky on few moments with the breakpoints. I had two good forehands, and later I have a rally with the slice backhand. So he finish missing the backhand to the net. So I don’t know. I just try my best in every moment, every practice, every point. Important thing is be there all the time. If you are there all the time, you are have more chances to save the breakpoints.”
The key statistic is break points and once again Nadal came up big. For the match Nadal converted four of six tries, Berdych was 0-for-4.
“I think the biggest difference between us was that when he get a chance, he just took it,” said Berdych who has dropped seven consecutive matches to Nadal, all in straight sets. “He give me one in the second set, one in the third set, and none of them I can, you know, bring it to my side and just made a break. That just show how strong he is. I think it was just really about the small difference.”
The victory ties Nadal with tennis greats Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors with 8 career Grand Slam titles. And remember the guy just turned 24 – only Bjorn Borg was younger than Nadal to win 8.
If he can stay healthy – and that’s always a big if with Rafa – a year from now he very well could be in double figure Slams. But now we are looking far ahead.
For the moment, the win almost seals the 2010 No. 1 Ranking for Rafa. Roger Federer, who’s now No. 3, and the second-ranked Novak Djokovic can mathematically still overtake Nadal by year’s end, but unless Nadal sustains a serious injury or someone gets ultra-hot, no one is going to catch him. In fact, the No. 1 ranking will be his through next March.
The victory also gives Nadal his second French Open-Wimbledon Slam double, which one behind Borg – a pretty incredible record.
For Berdych, despite his loss to Nadal the he ends a memorable 45 day or so stretch during which we saw Tomas mature right before out eyes. He reached the French Open semifinals and then at Wimbledon racked up impressive wins over Federer and Djokovic. He’ll now return to the top 10 and hopefully remain a factor at future Slams.
“If I’m gonna get there and I’m gonna stay there for a couple of years, then I can tell you yes, I can do that,” said Berdych about becoming Top 5 player. “That’s what I’m trying to do every day when I go for practice, for match, for everything. So right now I’m still, yeah, climbing higher and higher. But still it can go little bit more. But just, you know, need more tournaments, more matches.”
What’s remarkable about Rafa is just four months ago the guy hadn’t won a title in forever. Now look at him.
“So last seven months or six months of 2009 season I wasn’t ready to play at this level,” said Nadal who was twice pushed to five sets in the early rounds last week. “I was ready to fight, but not to play like I am doing now. The positive thing in that seven months is I didn’t lose in first round, second round, no? I wasn’t ready to win, but I was there all the time, semifinals, quarterfinals, one time one final in Shanghai. So without playing well, I had not bad results.”
And now there’s no doubting he’s back.
Nadal finished off Berdych behind another unreturnable signature forehand. He then appropriately fell to the dirt (not grass) and after the requisite handshakes he unveiled a new celebratory routine: the somersault. But what isn’t new is the power of Rafa.
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