/ Tennis

As it Happened: Wimbledon - Nadal v Djokovic

Updated: Sunday, 03 Jul 2011 18:35

Centre Court never felt so good
Centre Court never felt so good

by Barry McEneaney

Result - Novak Djokovic Ser (2) bt Rafael Nadal Spa (1) 6-4 6-1 1-6 3-6

Novak Djokovic falls to the ground in exaltation and appears to munch a bit of the Centre Court grass for good measure.

‘It tastes good,’ is the verdict of the BBC’s Boris Becker.

Everyone loves Boris, but few people would climb into a broom cupboard with him to quote the wag Noel Fielding.

The 24-year-old from Belgrade has cause for double celebration as he becomes world number one on Monday.

A third grand slam success, after wins in Australia in 2008 and 2011, comes in a year when the Serb has been almost unbeatable. Roger Federer’s victory over him at the French Open is the only defeat that he’s tasted since the turn of the year.

Djokovic clearly has the Indian sign over Nadal at the moment, but does this victory signify a permanent change in the pecking order at the very top of the men’s game?

Time will tell.

Djokovic bt Nadal 6-4 6-1 1-6 3-6 Nadal makes the perfect start in his attempt to break back, but his errant forehand cost him dear as firstly he launches long, before finding the net to give Djokovic a 30-15 advantage. He levels it up at 30-30, but Djokovic earns championship point with a serve volley salvo. He claims his first Wimbledon title when Nadal yet again goes long in the face of Djokovic pressure.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 6-1 1-6 5-3 (Break) A double fault and another unforced error from Nadal propels Djokovic to a 0-30 advantage. Nadal then comes off second best in a rally to face three break points. The Majorcan finds the line with a whipped top spin winner, but then falters when he flails a forehand much too long.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 6-1 1-6 4-3 Djokovic motors through his service game with the minimum of fuss. The boy from Belgrade done good. A startled looking Padraig Harrington and a more relaxed Rory McIlroy are amongst the glitterati in attendance this afternoon.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 6-1 1-6 3-3 Nadal hands Djokovic the initiative with a dreadful backhand slice shot which was always heading in to net, but he retrieves situation, winning a rally and then serving a torpedo to lead 30-15. An exquisite crosscourt backhand from behind the baseline beats Djokovic and the Majorcan goes on to hold.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 6-1 1-6 2-3 Djokovic gets back on track with a couple of free points off booming serves, but the shift in momentum means Nadal is now bossing the rallies. He recovers from 30-0 to level matters, but Djokovic keeps his composure to hold.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 6-1 1-6 2-2 A clearly rattled Djokovic fails to make any real impact on the Nadal serve as he ruminates on that lost break. He needs to put that out of his mind.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 6-1 1-6 2-1 (Break) Bombs are raining down on Centre Court as the final turns into a real slugfest. Nadal fights back with some massive groundstrokes and a huge dollop of good luck when his sliced return somehow creeps over the net on break point. He’ll take that.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 6-1 1-6 2-0 (Break) Djokovic benefits from Nadal errors as the Spaniard trails 0-30. The Serb’s passivity costs him dear as Nadal hits back, but Djokovic goes on to break with a well-directed volley and a Nadal error handing him the game. If he holds from here we have a new Wilmbledon champion.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 6-1 1-6 1-0 Djokovic wins the first point of the fourth set, but can’t reply to Nadal’s backhand passing shot in the next. Points are traded as we reach 30-30 but Nadal then earns yet another break point with an inside-out forehand backed up by a crosscourt forehand winner. Djokovic fights back and goes on to hold with a point on advantage that both players thought was in (it was called out). The challenge proves them both wrong, however.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 6-1 1-6 Nadal holds to love to close out the set. The Serb wasn’t exactly overexerting himself, as he realised the chances of recovering from a double break against the Majorcan were slim at best. It’s on!

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 6-1 1-5 (Break) Nadal’s final renaissance continues. Djokovic saves two break points to bring the game to deuce, but Nadal earns a break point after prevailing in a lung-busting extended rally. A double fault from a fatigued Djokovic hands the Spaniard the double break.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 6-1 1-4 Nadal holds to love with an impressive service game. Is Djokovic flagging just a tad?

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 6-1 1-3 Djokovic does the necessary, dropping just a single point on serve. The final point of the game was a comedy of errors, kids in the park kind of point that reminds us these guys are actually human.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 6-1 0-3 Nadal holds to love. The Spaniard was always going to have to dig deep to get back from two sets down. But he seems to have unearthed a rich seam of intensity that is now being channelled superbly.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 6-1 0-2 (Break) Nadal makes an impact on the Djokovic serve to forge a 0-30 advantage. Djoker fights back to level but a forehand wide of the line hands Rafa break point. The Serb dumps a backhand into the net as sport’s greatest competitor strikes back.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 6-1 0-1 Nadal drops two points but holds serve with a super top-spin forehand that catches the baseline. That’s the level of accuracy it’s taking to hang in there.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 6-1 Djokovic holds to love after dictating every aspect of the second set. Nadal is now 13-2 to stage a comeback and defend his title, that’s a skinny price but it’s also a testament to warrior-like reputation in the game.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 5-1 (Break) Extraordinary. Djokovic is doing to Nadal what the Spaniard has been doing to Roger Federer for several years now - completely dominating him. The Serb’s athleticism and punishing ground strokes are being met with precious little resistance at the moment.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 4-1 Djokovic strikes first but some ineffectual volleying from the Serb at the net allows Nadal to strike back. An ace from the Serb gets him back on track and he goes on to hold. The umbrellas come out to offer the players some respite from the sun as temperatures soar on Centre Court.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 3-1 Nadal is one of the few players on Tour to wear a cumbersome black digital watch when he’s playing. Might be an idea to ditch it. Desperate times and all that. An ace and a fortuitous net cord for the Spaniard sees him stop the rot and hold.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 3-0 It takes a superb forehand for Nadal to register his only point against the Djokovic serve. The Serb bags an ace and dispatches a huge backhand winner as he holds. Nadal getting outclassed? Well I never...

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 2-0 (Break) The Serb’s defence appears to be frustrating Nadal. Djokovic displays breaktaking athleticism to reach a drop shot at break point and return the ball with interest to claim the early break. Nadal made just seven unforced errors in his four-set win over Andy Murray, but he has already committed eight here as the Serb’s court coverage has force him to seek out the lines on almost every shot.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 1-0 The Djoker has won the last seven sets he’s played against Nadal. His bid to make it eight starts with an unconvincing hold. He trails 0-30 at one stage and starts really slow it down between points as he tightens up, but two more forehand errors and a botched smash from Nadal hauls him back into a game he goes on to close out.

Djokovic v Nadal 6-4 (Break) The total dominance experienced by the server means the match hasn’t as yet lived up to expectations. But that has suddenly changed. A Djokovic forehand down the line and an errant shot into the net from Nadal earns the Serb break point at the best possible time. Nadal then sees his forehand sail just wide of the line as the defending champion loses the first set of the final.

Djokovic v Nadal 5-4 The world’s top two exchange points at the beginning of the game, before a big serve earns Djokovic a 30-15 lead. An average second serve out wide to the Nadal forehand begged to be hit, but a low percentage shot over the highest part of the net doesn’t come off for the leftie. Djokovic goes on to hold.

Djokovic v Nadal 4-4 Two superb first serves from Nadal catapults him into a 30-0 lead, but an unforced error gets Djokovic back into the game. Pressure from the man from Majorca sees Djokovic trail 40-15, before another uncharacteristic unforced error from Nadal. A poorly judged drop shot from the Serb hands Nadal the game.

Djokovic v Nadal 4-3 Djokovic wins the first two points on serve, but has no answer to a low passing shot from Nadal. The Serb benefits from a fortunate net cord (they balance themselves out) before claiming the point with a smooth overhead smash and ultimately holds comfortably. The serve has dominated so far and we still haven’t had a sniff of a break point.

Djokovic v Nadal 3-3 The serve-volley works a treat for Nadal at the start of his service game, but he then misses a very makeable backhand passing shot, dumping the ball into the net. A forehand winner follows from the Spaniard, but long forehand - and an incorrect challenge – results in a 30-30 scoreline. The world number one (until tomorrow) wins the next to point - and registers another ace - to seal the deal.

Djokovic v Nadal 3-2 Djokovic win the opening point after a rare foray to the net culminates in a deft drop volley from the Serb. A well-executed crosscourt forehand of a short ball from Nadal, a big serve and a Nadal error sees Djokovic also hold to love.

Djokovic v Nadal 2-2 Nadal has started brightly. He holds to love in a game marked by outstanding serving, including a 126mph serve.

Djokovic v Nadal 2-1 A somewhat tentative Djokovic surrenders the first point in his service, but his serve kicks him into a 30-15 lead. Pressure from the Pearl of Manacor forces Djokovic into an error, before Nadal comes off second best in a long rally. Djokovic closes out the game as the first three games of the final go with serve.

Djokovic v Nadal 1-1 Both men thrive in protracted rallies, but the impetus that serve gives Nadal means the Spaniard prevails in the first two points of the game. A BIG serve from Nadal propels hi to 40-0, before Djokovic strikes back, thanks to a splendid forehand. Nadal goes on to hold comfortably.

Djokovic v Nadal 1-0 A fine first serve sees Djokovic make the perfect start, but Nadal strikes back with a sublime 95mph forehand winner down the line to make it 15-15. He replicates that shot in the next point, before the Serb bangs down the first ace of the match to pull it back to 30-30. A couple of Djokovic backhands forces the Spanish southpaw into errors and the world number two wraps up the first game.

Build-up

Form is temporary, class is permanent, apparently. But that adage has already been disproved this afternoon as the top two in the ATP rankings go mano a mano in their first grand slam final against one another.

The nuances and vagaries of the ranking system mean Novak Djokovic is guaranteed to supplant Rafael Nadal at the top of the global tennis tree regardless of the outcome at the All England Club this afternoon.

Nadal v Federer, the grand slam final match-up that transcends tennis and captivates those with little interest in the sport, never materialised, and perhaps now never will again.

Djokovic has been a poster boy for the benefits of a gluten-free diet in 2011. Dodging pizzas and breakfast rolls has seen his metamorphosis from a talented but fragile sportsman to the complete athlete.

Unfortunately for the Serb, he faces perhaps world sports ultimate athlete this afternoon.

The Pearl of Manacor may not be the awesome physical specimen he once was, but he’s still a beast. In fact he hails from a long line of beasts. Miguel Angel Nadal aka The Beast of Barcelona is his uncle.

Nadal has changed his game significantly in recent years. The serve is now a strength, rather than a weakness. He’s hitting the ball much flatter than when he first exploded on to the scene and he’s slimmed down and lost some muscle/weight, perhaps in an attempt to take some of the strain of those notoriously fragile knees.

Boris Becker, unintentionally the greatest commentator in world sport, is in action for the BBC this afternoon. We’ll have pearls of wisdom/clangers from him throughout the afternoon.

Boris’ penchant for private jets means he got back from the Haye fight in plenty of time for his courtside duties.

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