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The dream is true - The new World No.1 is the new Wimbledon Champion. In a superb performance, Novak Djokovic conquered the early nerves, gained the early initiative, stepped up the gears to stamp his authority, quelled a comeback from his opponent before overcoming the late match pressure to accomplish his childhood dream of being Wimbledon champion. Novak Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal in four sets 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 in an accomplished display. The Serb's victory underlined his dominance this year and put the icing on his World No.1 cake. The cherry on top undoubtedly was doing so by beating Nadal in a slam on grass for the first time on the most glorious stage of all. Rafael Nadal looked all at sea for a while but showcased his own guts and refusal to give up but even that came up short against Djokovic who played like a man possessed. The victory was Djokovic's third slam and the second of the year to go with the Australian open crown he captured earlier this year.
Nadal was graceful in defeat and congratulated Djokovic on his first title. He recalled his own emotions on winning the title in 2008 and promised he would be back the next year. Djokovic described this as the best day of his life, winning the tournament he most wanted. He paid tribute to his opponent and suggested he had to play his best ever match on grass to win. He wasn't exaggerating as the level of play he displayed from the fag end of the first set through the second set was quite unbelievable. Equally impressive was his guts and bravery when he served and volleyed to setup match point - a clear demonstration of a champion's mentality. The ability that Djokovic showed in keeping Rafa on the backfoot in the rally was key not only today but also why he has dominated the Spaniard all year.
Earlier, Nadal won the toss, chose to receive as is his wont and Djokovic served to start off proceedings in his first final here. The early exchanges were characterised by Nadal being the aggressor as he hugged the baseline and unleashed the big down the line forehand early in the proceedings to put pressure on the Djokovic serve. Djokovic in comparison started a touch slow on his feet and took a while to find the full range on his strokes. Nadal held serve the easier of the two in the early going but Djokovic held on despite the pressure exerted by the Spaniard. As the set wore on, Djokovic found his footing and range showing us why he has troubled Nadal so much this year while Nadal displayed how comfortable his game has grown to be on grass. His serve was in especially impeccable nick clearly enjoying the extra zip grass does provide as the set stayed on serve 4-4. Djokovic then held comfortably finishing the 9th game with a wonderful ace out wide on the deuce court forcing Nadal to serve to stay in the first set. It looked comfortable as Nadal went up 30-0 when Djokovic stepped up the baseline rallies evening things at 30-30 with a couple of rasping forehand winners. A misfiring Nadal forehand into the net gave Djokovic his first breakpoint and another forehand error by Rafa when he slung one just wide gave Djokovic the break and the first set 6-4. The story of that first set was the disparity between Nadal's first and second serves. Although he served lights out at 81% and won 77% of those points, he won only 20% of the points on his second serves, a remarkable indication of Djokovic's comfort and dominance once the rally got going.
The second set began in encouraging fashion for Nadal as a net cord gave him a half opening at 0-30 in the very first game of the set. Djokovic however drawing on the belief and confidence built from the 47-1 record this year nullified any Nadal hopes of an early recovery. He then built on this by breaking Nadal in the very next game with a sprint worthy of Usain Bolt to track down and flip back a Rafa drop shot wrong footing the Spaniard in spectacular fashion. Djokovic just went from strength to strength from there hitting his backhand with increasing authority to consolidate the break. If that wasn't enough, his return & groundstrokes only got even better, and pulling Nadal around as if a puppet on string he got the insurance break to serve for the set at 5-1. Djokovic had been serving with a gameplan, especially hitting the serve out wide on the deuce side to open out the court. He continued this and held serve with nary a squeak from Nadal to take the second set 6-1. Remarkably in this set, Nadal won only 46% of his first serve points demonstrating clearly Djokovic's superlative returning as well as the difficulty in finding a way past the Serb once the exchanges started.
Nadal began the third set with a mountain to climb. Roger Federer had come close to scaling this particular peak in 2008, but fell just short in that magnificent finale. Nadal began the climb in right earnest as he held his own serve and put pressure on the Djokovic serve generating surprisingly his first break point. The pressure told as Djokovic netted a backhand he had been ripping all match as Nadal made the early effort to claw his way back in to the final. Nadal greeted the break with his usual overt leaping fist pumps as he attempted to gee himself up. It certainly seemed to work as he held to love as Djokovic suffered the inevitable drop in intensity and level. Nadal took full toll of that as he broke Djokovic once more to ease through the remaining part of the set to keep the match alive. Nadal took the set 6-1 in 30 minutes as Djokovic came back to earth from the stratospheric heights he had reached in the initial portion of the match. The Serb hit a mere 3 winners in this set, as Rafa for the first time today looked to be in command of the situation.
Nadal began the fourth set in punishing form. A brilliant backhand pass on the dead run gave him an early opening on the Djokovic serve at 15-30 and another punishing sequence of forehands gave him the early breakpoint at 30-40. Nadal threw up a towering defensive lob off which Novak could only hit a less than punishing overhead which gave him the half chance at the forehand pass. Rafa missed that opportunity and Djokovic crucially held. The importance of this situation was obvious and one could cut the tension with a knife. Both Djokovic and Nadal netted easy forehands, before Djokovic took the vital break with a delicate drop volley before extracting another Nadal error. He now only had to hold four times to win his first title â€“ easier said than done. The tension still palpable, Djokovic missed a couple of makeable groundstrokes to give Nadal the look at the break back at 30-40 which Nadal took courtesy of a forehand return that literally just about trickled over the net. The match now was a scrappy, tense affair - a situation that Nadal revels is and Djokovic was only now coming to terms with. Surprisingly, down 3-4, it was Nadal who cracked. The Spanish bull famed for his mental toughness, made 4 errors to hand the break to Djokovic leaving the Serb the nerve wracking task of serving out his first Wimbledon title. It started badly with a double fault, but with a brave serve and volley at 30-30 he set up championship point. A minute later it was all over as he sank to the turf as a Nadal shot sailed long.
Novak Djokovic took home a cool Â£1.1million for his victory today. It took his win-loss record for the year to 48-1 with 8 of those wins coming against the dominant duo of Federer & Nadal. The extent to which Federer have dominated the sport and the kind of quality one needed to gatecrash their party is indicated by the fact that for the first time since February 2004, seven and a half years ago, someone other than Federer or Nadal has held the top ranking. For Nadal it was a disquieting defeat since it was the only surface left where he still hadn't been defeated by Djokovic. It brought to an end a 20 match streak here at Wimbledon and it must be a defeat that rankles. Rafa remains at 10 slams and with the emergence of Djokovic, a returning Del Potro & a rejuvenated Federer arounf defending the US Open will be far from a stroll in the park. However, the Spaniard has shown more than any other champion in the past the ability to reinvent his game and who's to say that this defeat won't rejuvenate him to go to another level altogether? For now though, there will be celebrations all over Serbia and Novak Djokovic can sit back & reflect on the accomplishment of his childhood dreams. Not for long though, there is still New York to conquer this year.
Novak Djokovic (SRB) def. Rafael Nadal (ESP) 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3
File Photograph Copyright: Dubai Tennis Championships
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