Monday, July 5, 2010

Nadal cruises past Berdych to win second title

Rafael Nadal made a simple job of winning his second Wimbledon men's crown, swatting aside the giant Czech Tomas Berdych 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in two hours 13 minutes. Those who had feared that the 6ft 5in Berdych would be overwhelmed, but not overawed, were proved correct as Nadal never dropped serve in three routine sets, centring his winning attack on that formidable forehand, the best shot of its kind in tennis.

Nadal came into the final having won six straight matches against Berdych, accumulating 14 sets in doing so, and those statistics were extended to 17 sets with no discernible problem.

This is Nadal's eighth Grand Slam title and the second time he has come straight from winning the French Open at Roland Garros to lift the Wimbledon title.

A swirling breeze threatened to affect the timing of both of these big-hitters but initially, at least, both coped admirably with the wind and a bright sun, each holding serve to love as they tested out each other's reactions.

The Centre Court crowd was vociferously behind the Spaniard, with one (male) voice booming out "I love you, Rafa", soon followed by "You're a genius, Rafa" from the same section, a fact which the world No.1 underlined with some fine, tight serving in the opening set, in which he conceded a paltry four points on serve.

Berdych stayed in the hunt with excellent serving and heavily-struck forehands until he faltered in the seventh game, offering Nadal a glimmer of opportunity by directing a backhand long to fall love-30 behind. Rafa pounced in a flash with a great forehand pass to open up break points and captured the Czech serve with a backhand service return with which Berdych could not cope.

Now in full, exciting flow Nadal made it four games in a row by breaking Berdych again to take the first set in 34 minutes. Then, at the start of the second, he made it five games in succession, albeit with some difficulty in a service game which lasted 11 minutes and in which the Czech held three break points without managing to capitalise on any, despite Nadal's best effort to assist him with a pair of double-faults.

After that marathon game, with Berdych shaking his head in despair at the chances he had missed, normality was restored on serve, both men holding with confidence and comfort. Aware that Berdych urgently needed to get back into this final, the crowd were behind him every time he captured a point on the Nadal serve, something which did not happen frequently.

With Nadal leading 6-5 the second set seemed destined for resolution by tiebreak, since the Czech had permitted Nadal just four points in five service games. Then, spectacularly, he imploded, dropped his delivery to love with a forehand driven tamely wide and Nadal was two sets in front with an hour and 28 minutes gone.

Berdych's urgent need was to get into the Nadal serve, get a break somehow and get himself back into a match which was inexorably draining away from him. But the Spaniard was not in a "giving" mood, bearing down as he headed towards another triumph on the lawns of London.

In a rare moment of relaxation, Nadal permitted Berdych a break point in the third game of the third set but the Czech dumped a backhand into the net and the opening was lost. For the rest, the howitzer that is the Nadal forehand was running the show.

And it was that forehand which decided it in the tenth game as Berdych served to stay in contention. A couple of Nadal forehands had the Czech groggy at deuce and when he over hit his own forehand to offer Rafa his first championship point, it was all he needed, clinching his second Wimbledon with a stupendous cross-court forehand before falling flat on his back in the baseline dust and then executing a celebratory forward roll.

With Federer showing some signs of going backfoot since the early of the year and Nadal rising up to his usual dominating play, I wonder who else will be able to compete regulary with him...hmmm.

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