Sunday, July 4, 2010
Nadal tops Berdych for eighth Slam title
WIMBLEDON, England -- A year after knee problems prevented him from defending the title, Rafael Nadal has the Wimbledon trophy back in his hands.
The top-ranked Spaniard swept 12th-seeded Tomas Berdych 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 on Sunday to reclaim the championship at the All England Club, winning his second Wimbledon title and eighth Grand Slam crown.
Nadal broke the Czech four times and never lost serve in 15 service games, winning in 2 hours, 13 minutes. He extended his record to 5-0 in his last five major finals and reinforced his current status as the No. 1 player in the game.
Nadal "retained" the title he first won here in 2008, when he beat Roger Federer in an epic five-set final after losing to the Swiss star in the previous two finals.
Last year, hobbled by tendinitis in both knees, Nadal stayed at home and watched on television as Federer took advantage of the Spaniard's absence to win his sixth Wimbledon.
"It was probably one of the toughest moments in my career," Nadal said after accepting the winner's trophy Sunday from the Duke of Kent.
But Nadal came back strongly this year and has now won 14 straight matches at Wimbledon.
"After not an easy year for me, to be back at my favorite tournament of the world and to play well another time, and not only play well [but] to finish with the trophy, is amazing for me," he said.
After ripping a crosscourt forehand passing shot on match point, Nadal collapsed on his back on the turf at the baseline and covered his face with his hands. After congratulating Berdych, Nadal leapt out of his chair and did a front somersault on the grass, rising to his feet with both fists clenched.
It's the second time Nadal has won the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back, making the tough transition from clay to grass. Until he and Federer accomplished the feat for the last three years, the last man to do it was Bjorn Borg in 1980.
"If you really want to play well on one surface and you are a good player, I think in the end you are going to find a way," Nadal said. "I move very well on this court and that's a very important part of the game."
With eight Grand Slam titles, Nadal joins a list of greats that includes Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Fred Perry and Ken Rosewall. He also has five French Open championships and one Australian Open title.
All that's missing for a career Grand Slam is the U.S. Open title.
"For sure the U.S. Open is going to be one of my goals for the rest of my career," Nadal said. "But right now [my goal] is to enjoy the beach, fishing, golf, friends, party, and Mallorca."
Nadal posed with the trophy in the clubhouse next to the green board with his name already etched as the 2010 winner. He cradled the trophy under his left arm as he signed autographs outside the members' entrance, where hundreds of fans gathered to see him.
Nadal is the first Spanish man to win Wimbledon twice. Manolo Santana took the title in 1966.
"For the Spanish players for the last 40 years it was very difficult to play here," Nadal said. "We are doing better right now. We are very satisfied for that."
In a match short on drama and spectacular points, played in windy conditions, Nadal beat Berdych for the seventh straight time -- a span covering 17 consecutive sets.
Berdych was playing in his first Grand Slam final and was the first Czech to reach the Wimbledon final since Ivan Lendl in 1987. He had beaten top-seeded Federer and No. 3 Novak Djokovic en route to the final, but couldn't find a way to take out the second-seeded Nadal as well.
Nadal won all the big points against the 24-year-old Czech, who failed to convert any of his four break points.
"He was strong," Berdych said. "I think the biggest difference between us was that when he got a chance, he just took it. He gave me one [break point] in the second set, one in the third set, and none of them I can bring to my side and just make a break. That just shows how strong he is."
Later Sunday, Berdych pulled out of the Czech Republic's Davis Cup quarterfinal against Chile, which starts July 9, citing an abdominal muscle injury. He did not mention any injury during his post-match Wimbledon news conference and showed no sign of injury during the match.
It was typical grass-court Wimbledon tennis, with play dominated by serves and only a few break points here and there making the difference. Nadal lost only 24 points on serve.
Nadal played his usual grinding baseline game featuring whippet forehands. Yet it wasn't a vintage performance from Nadal, who had 21 unforced errors compared to 17 for Berdych. Nadal had 29 winners, two more than the Czech.
Nadal broke twice in the first set, dropping only four points in his own four service games. Nadal won five games in a row from 3-2 down in the first set to go up 1-0 in the second.
Berdych's chances may have evaporated in the first game of the second set, when he failed to convert on three break points. In a game that lasted about 10 minutes, Nadal overcame two double faults and four forehand errors.
Berdych will rue his chance on the second break point, when Nadal hit a relatively weak approach shot and the Czech had plenty of time to line up a forehand passing shot but slapped the ball into the net.
Nadal broke Berdych at love in the 12th game to go up two sets to love. Nadal saved another break point at 1-1 in the third set, then broke Berdych again in the last game to close out the match.
Serena Williams won her fourth women's title Saturday, beating Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 6-2 in a one-sided encounter. The men's final was also a disappointment following thrillers in the last three years -- two classics between Federer and Nadal and last year's 16-14 fifth set victory by Federer over Andy Roddick.
This year's tournament will be remembered particularly for a first-round match -- the record-setting 11 hour, 5-minute marathon between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut that stretched over three days and ended with Isner winning 70-68 in the fifth set.
Also notable: For the time since 1995, the tournament was completely rain-free. The Centre Court roof -- unveiled last year -- was used mainly as a sun shade.