Monday, July 5, 2010

Nadal Grabs Second Wimbledon Title

Rafael Nadal mowed down Tomáš Berdych, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4, with nary a grass stain on his white shorts. He dirtied them only when he collapsed onto his back after his winning cross-court forehand, then did a somersault that delighted the record 32,036-spectator crowd.

The first time Nadal won at the All-England Club, in 2008, he beat Federer in a five-set, four-hour, 48-minute rain-interrupted marathon, the longest Wimbledon final in history. Last week John Isner outlasted Nicolas Mahut in the longest match in history, a three-day, 11-hour, five-minute epic that ended with a 70-68 final set.

Last year Nadal had to withdraw from Wimbledon to let his tendinitis-wracked knees heal. From his sofa in Mallorca, Spain, he watched Federer win a sixth Wimbledon title. He felt helpless. He had been on the ascendancy for more than a year against Federer when his knees said “No mas.”
“Having this trophy in my hands is just more than a dream,” Nadal said. “For sure after not an easy year for me. To be back in my favorite tournament and play well another time, and not only play well, but finish with the trophy is amazing for me.”
Nadal again won the difficult French Open/Wimbledon double, which Borg did in 1978, 1979 and 1980. The next challenge, after Nadal goes home to receive treatment on his knees, is the US Open, which he has never won. He needs to show his durability in the last Slam of the season. Federer has won it five times.

But Nadal is better than ever. His game has more nuances. He used to play the role of wall, staying behind the baseline, getting everything back and driving his opponents into an exhausted state of frustration. Now he moves forward. He attacks. He has improved his serve. He doesn’t run around his backhand as often. He volleys with confidence.

Nadal neutralized Berdych’s power game, and windy conditions didn’t help Berdych, who had trouble adjusting to the lefty angles of Nadal. He often had to lunge for shots.

Berdych had a chance to turn the tide in the first game of the second set, but he could not convert on three break points. He had only four the entire match.

Nadal has a long way to go, but in winning his eighth Grand Slam, he tied with Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Fred Perry and Ken Rosewall on the all-time list. Federer, 28, has won 16. But Nadal is on a faster pace, having won No. 8 a month after he turned 24 while Federer won No. 8—at Wimbledon 2006—a month before he turned 25.

For the first time in eight years, Roger Federer was not on Centre Court for the Sunday climax. The 16-time Grand Slam champion’s quarterfinal loss at Wimbledon, following seven consecutive appearances in the final, dropped him one spot. Federer fell to No. 3 in the ATP rankings, the first time since November 2003 he’s been that low. He trails No. 1 Rafael Nadal and new No. 2 Novak Djokovic.

Federer was No. 1 earlier this season, but he was overtaken in the rankings by Nadal on June 7, after the French Open. Nadal won his fifth title at Roland Garros, while Federer lost in the quarterfinals there, too. That left Federer one week shy of tying Pete Sampras’ career record of 286 total weeks at No. 1.

Runner-up Tomas Berdych, who upset Federer and Djokovic, climbed from 13th to a career-high No. 8 by reaching his first Grand Slam final.

Andy Roddick, who lost the 2009 Wimbledon title match to six-time champion Federer, dropped two spots to No. 9 after losing in the fourth round. The man who beat him, Yen-hsun Lu of Taiwan, leaped 40 spots to No. 42.

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