Sunday, July 03, 2011

WIMBLEDON 2011: Djokovic Beats Nadal For 3rd Major

Novak Djokovic's miraculous 2011 season continues! As I predicted, the 24-year-old Serb beat 2-time defending Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal in four sets 6-4 6-1 1-6 6-3 to win his 48th match of the year (compared to one loss), 8th ATP tour title of the year, 2nd major (he also won the Australian Open) of the year and 1st Wimbledon title.

It is Djokovic's 4th major title in his career, and he improves to 16 losses and 12 wins against now World #2 Nadal. Djokovic will become the 25th player to top the ATP Tour rankings in their history when the new list comes out on Monday. For the previous 7 1/2 years either Federer or Nadal had been #1 since Andy Roddick relinquished the top spot on 2 February 2004.

How He Did It
The 2011 Wimbledon final did not live up to its potential to be an instant classic of the level of the 2008 or 2009 finals. Both players came out serving in the 80% level and playing extremely well (though Nadal was making more forehand errors than usual) until suddenly at 4-5 Nadal shots started falling shorter in the court and he faced his first and only break point of the set which he lost with an error as he aimed for a down-the-line forehand which fell a foot wide.

This was the beginning of a 10-minute bad stretch for the Spaniard as Djokovic held to start the first set and then broke Nadal after reaching a drop shot and gently pushing it cross-court instead of down the line as Nadal expected. Another quick service hold and the Serbian was up 6-4, 3-0. Nadal was able to steady himself and the two traded holds when suddenly he was serving at 1-4 Nadal got into trouble again at 30-40 and during a long rally he slipped on the grass and slightly mishit a forehand into the net. Nadal was able to quickly serve out the set and grab a 6-4, 6-1 stranglehold on the match.

However, in the 3rd set Djokovic's level dropped immediately and he faced his first break point of the match in his very first service game which he lost with a tentative backhand into the net. Nadal held at love with Djokovic only getting one service return into play to go up 3-0. Both players held their next service games but it was clear that Djokovic was not playing as well as he had  in the first two sets. His service percentage plummeted to below 50% and he started making many more errors. This was capped when at 1-4 Djokovic hit his one and only double fault of the match on breakpoint to essentially concede the 3rd set, which Nadal wrapped up a few minutes later at 6-1.

The fourth set was where the match was decided and Djokovic was able to get an early break after saving a break in his very first service game and going on to hold his service game to go up 2-0. But, amazingly Nadal was able to break back (thanks to some good luck: at 1-2, 30-40 Nadal hit a slice backhand return which clipped the top of the tape and dropped a few inches on the other side of the net) to even the set again. Serving at 3-4 Nadal had another momentary lapse where he started the service game with a double fault and a quick forehand error to go down 0-30. The next point was crucial: Nadal placed an excellent down the tee first serve which Djokovic got back with interest but Nadal pulled him wide on both sides of the court which the Serbian was able to get back and on the third attempted winner Nadal hooked the ball into the net to go down 0-40. After saving the 0-40 point with a good serve and return of service-return forehand winner a few inches inside the line. At 15-40 after a 14-stroke rally Nadl's 15th stroke was atired-looking backhand which flew several feet long to give Djokovic the opportunity to serve out the match. Djokvic started with a forehand error to go down 0-15 but then Nadal hit two forehand errors to give the Serbian 30-15. Nadal played a great forehand down the line forcing a Djokovic error to bring the score back to 30-30. Djokovic served out wide to Nadal's backhand and followed it in to volleye the weak return into the open court for his first serve-and-volley point of the match. On match point Djokovic served down the tee to Nadal's backhand which produced a weak reply that the Serbian hit a forehand into the corner with topspin dragging Nadal off the court and he went for an attempted backhand down the line winner which flew several feet long and Djokovic won the point, game set and champion.

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