Today, Rafael Nadal went in search of his third consecutive Wimbledon title. Unfortunately for the Spaniard, someone got in his way. Novak Djokovic downed Nadal 6-4,6-1,1-6,6-3 to bank his initial trophy at the All England Club.
With a record of 47-1 this season and four victories over Nadal, the Serb realized he had “a mental advantage”. Yet, the finals of Indian Wells, Miami, Rome and Madrid were three set affairs. Consequently, in a five set major final against Nadal, Djokovic knew it would be a bear of a task.
Nine games into the initial set, neither player had problem holding serve. Then, at 4-5, Nadal misjudged a forehand to give Djokovic set point. When the Spaniard sent another forehand wide, Djokovic took the first set.
After Djokovic recovered from 0-30 in the opening game of the second set, Nadal netted a backhand crosscourt to hand his rival double break point. Great anticipation by Djokovic off the forehand dropshot by Nadal resulted in a backhand volley winner for the break and a 2-0 lead.
Next, Djokovic consolidated with another comfortable hold. Later ahead 4-1, Djokovic manufactured another break chance. When Nadal pushed a backhand wide, Djokovic had a 5-1 advantage in the second set.
Promptly with a love service game, Djokovic seized the second set and was one set away from crushing Nadal’s dream of a third Wimbledon-French Open trophy combo.
History was certainly not in Nadal’s corner. Henri Cochet was the last individual to overcome a 2 set to 0 deficit at Wimbledon in 1927 defeating compatriot Jean Borotra.
Subsequent to guarding serve to start the third set, on a forehand up the line struck wide by Djokovic, Nadal had break point. When the Serb muffed a backhand, Nadal had a 2-0 edge.
After Nadal consolidated with a love hold, he capitalize on a double fault by Djokovic to break a second time for 5-1. Then with an emphatic love hold, Nadal sealed the third set.
Those gathered at Centre Court believed that the matador had finally arisen from his slumber and hoped that a five set slugfest was on the horizon. But Djokovic demonstrated as he has on countless occasions this year that his tenacity is equal to none, not even Nadal.
Following a backhand miscue whereby he donated a break point to Nadal, Djokovic saw Nadal misfire on a passing shot after reaching the overhead stroke he struck. Once at deuce, Djokovic launched two unreturnable serves to stay in front 1-0 in the fourth set.
Then, by forcing a couple of errors from Nadal and sticking a forehand volley winner, Djokovic arrived at double break point. With lengths on his strokes, Djokovic pressured Nadal into fumbling a forehand and jumped to a 2-0 edge.
Soon though, because of two botched forehands, Djokovic faced break point. Thanks to a net cord forehand return winner, Nadal was back in the set.
On the heels of a love hold by Djokovic for 4-3, Nadal opened his game with a double fault and committed two successive miscues to stare at triple break point. Again with superb defense in a long rally, Nadal coughed up the backhand mistake to surrender the game.
With Djokovic serving for the match, Nadal continued to fight. Still, with a backhand volley winner, Djokovic had his maiden championship point. When Nadal produced another gaffe, Djokovic became the new Wimbledon champion.
Prior to today, Nadal’s record in major finals was 10-2, with Roger Federer the only person to upstage him twice. Furthermore, Nadal had a 20 match winning streak at the All England Club halted by Djokovic.
As usual, Nadal praised his adversary. The Spaniard congratulated Djokovic on his victory “I tried my best as always, but one player was better than me”. Also, Nadal understands the excitement Djokovic has in prevailing for the first time at Wimbledon because “in 2008 emotions were very high when I won my first one”.
Despite the previous losses to Djokovic, Nadal said he did not alter his approach to the match. Today, Djokovic was aggressive whenever he had a misstep including “a dangerous return” game.
Nadal stated that Wimbledon is “the most special tournament for me . . . I will try [again] next year”.
Djokovic cited “it’s the biggest day of my life, of my career… [Wimbledon] is the first tournament I watched . . .and the one I always dreamt of winning”. To play Nadal “I had to be at the top of my game. . . I needed to serve well and attack. . . It was the perfect plan and I played the best game of my life on grass”.
Already looking to next season and beyond, Djokovic expressed “it’s a pleasure to play against a great champion. Hopefully we can have many more great matches here. . . I am young and I want to win more grand slams”.
Djokovic’s semifinal triumph over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who ousted Federer in the quarterfinals, means that on Monday, he overtakes Nadal at number one. It’s the first time since February 2004 that the post will not be held by either Nadal or Federer.
As Djokovic reflected on winning his first grass singles title, his third major and being the new number one “a couple of good days at the office”.