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.