The list of competitors who have successfully prevailed their initial outing in the finals at a major is brief. Today, Tomas Berdych was hoping to add his name to that distinguished roll of honor. To do so, the Czech would have to overcome his biggest hurdle these two weeks, 2008 Wimbledon champion and world number one, Rafael Nadal. Nadal dispatched newcomer Berdych 6-3,7-5,6-4 to capture his second back to back French Open and Wimbledon trophies. With a total of eight majors, Nadal moves up to fifth in the record books besides Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Andre Agassi.
Berdych’s track to the finals was dramatic. In the quarterfinals, the Czech defeated six time champion Roger Federer. Moreover, Berdych halted Federer’s seven straight Wimbledon final streak. Subsequently, in the semifinals, Berdych ousted Novak Djokovic, the world number 3, and became the first player from his nation since Lendl in 1987 to reach the finals at the All England Club.
With injury barring him from the defense of his title last year, Nadal had his knees come into the picture the earlier rounds. But, in the quarterfinals and semifinals against Robin Soderling and Andy Murray respectively, Nadal had no issues. Thus, the Spaniard appeared fit to battle. Although Berdych and Nadal are the same age, their careers have had divergent paths. Nadal holds 40 titles and has a 8-2 mark in finals of majors. On the other hand, Berdych’s overall record in finals is 5-5.
Berdych coolly carried the opening game at love while Nadal duplicated with four easy points. Later in the first set, with a forehand crosscourt winner, Berdych held at 15 to stay in front 3-2. However, after mildly pushing Nadal on serve, Berdych committed two quick unforced errors. Then, with a forehand up the winner, Nadal arrived at triple break point. With Berdych unable to locate a first serve the entire game, Nadal punished another second serve with a backhand crosscourt shot leading to another miscue by Berdych and the break. Previously, Berdych had surrendered only two points on his serve. Promptly with a forehand crosscourt winner, Nadal consolidated at love for 5-3. After Berdych misfired on another forehand resulting in double break point, Nadal teed off on an abysmal second serve to get the error and claim the first set.
Still, in the second set, Berdych had his chances. With two double faults and Nadal’s forehand floundering, Berdych had three opportunities to break in the first game. With Berdych failing to capitalize on second serves, Nadal maintained serve. Despite being denied, Berdych held with a love game. Although Nadal committed a few uncharacteristic mistakes, he never allowed Berdych back in. With Nadal ahead 4-3, at 40-30, Berdych connected on a backhand volley winner to level the set. After readily keeping pace with comfortable games, Berdych produced a rash of errors as he served to send the set to a tiebreaker. As a result, Nadal had triple break point. In a mirror image of the first set, with a forehand error by Berdych, Nadal broke to take a two set advantage.
At one all in the third set, Berdych got a break point when Nadal’s backhand pass found the net. Again, errors got the better of Berdych and Nadal guarded serve for 2-1. Both men continued to cruise on serve with Berdych giving up just three points the next three game. Nadal not too shabby himself, held at love for 5-4. Despite trying his best, Berdych faltered precisely at the wrong moments. After Berdych shoveled out of 0-30 to obtain game point, by taking control of the rally on a second serve, Nadal crushed a forehand up the line winner for deuce. When Berdych’s forehand missed its intended mark, Nadal had championship point. By connecting with a forehand crosscourt pass, Nadal closed out the set and wrapped up the championship.
Subsequent to collecting the runner-up trophy, Berdych was asked his thoughts on his remarkable run. Berdych cited that it was “a great two weeks for me . . . . [ but Nadal] was strong today and deserves to win”. Berdych stated “the results the last two months are pretty good” and this is due to “my team in the box” to which he extended his gratitude. Although Berdych is thankful for experiencing his first final at a major, he wants a different outcome next time, “it’s hard work, but [I will] do it again . . . [I] will be stronger for next time”. Berdych will go from 13 to the number 8 slot in the rankings with this performance.
Nadal congratulated his counterpart on his incredible fortnight and said “sorry for today, wish you best of luck for the rest of the season”. Considering what occurred last year, Nadal iterated that this is “more than a dream” to hold up the trophy and acknowledged that he owed his triumph to the “great team behind me” . Furthermore, Nadal wanted to thank the crowd for “always mak[ing] me feel at home”. He especially appreciated “the respect” it showed when he battled Murray in the semifinals.
This Wimbledon is significant in various ways. Firstly, once again, Murray and the British public will need to wait at least another year for a homegrown champion. Secondly, after the memorable final last year and diligently working to have another shot at the title, Roddick fell to Yen-Hsun Lu ranked 82nd in the fourth round. Thirdly, with his quarterfinal loss, Federer slips another notch to third in the rankings, a position Federer has not occupied since November of 2003. Djokovic climbs up to the number two spot, a place he held earlier in the year. More importantly, Murray stands within striking distance of the number three. With a possible injury and Federer having so many points to defend on the North American swing, at the end of the year, the rankings board may look radically different from its start.