Wimbledon: Queen Elizabeth II had the right idea coming to Wimbledon during the first week.
That’s when this year’s tournament produced most of its drama, while the final weekend stuck with a predictable script, thanks to Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams.
Nadal cemented his status as the world’s No. 1 player Sunday, winning his second Wimbledon trophy, eighth Grand Slam championship and second major title in four weeks. He dismantled first-time Grand Slam finalist Tomas Berdych 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.
The top-ranked Williams, who won Wimbledon for the fourth time Saturday, eased through seven rounds without losing a set. Nadal had the more arduous journey, being pushed to five sets in rounds two and three while battling soreness in his right knee that subsided for his later matches.
He made the final look routine, deftly defusing Berdych’s power and dominating pivotal points.
Nadal celebrated with perhaps the first Centre Court somersault in the history of a tournament that dates to 1877. Later, cradling the trophy under that talented left arm, he signed autographs outside the members’ entrance to the All England Club.
The victory extended Nadal’s winning streak at Wimbledon to 14 matches. The Spaniard won the title in 2008, then missed last year’s tournament because of tendinitis in his knees.
“One of the toughest moments in my career, no?” he said during the trophy ceremony. “Amazing for me after a difficult year last year that I can be here.”
While the final weekend went as expected, with a sweep by tennis’ No. 1 players, the first week generated plenty of surprises to go with the queen’s first Wimbledon visit since 1977.
Besides Nadal’s close calls, there was a narrow escape for top-seeded Roger Federer, who was three points from defeat in the opening Centre Court match, and there was the longest match in tennis history. John Isner needed three days to beat Nicolas Mahut, winning the fifth set 70-68, creating such a sustained buzz Nadal was still talking about the match after his final.
“Unbelievable,” he said. “They show amazing good spirit for the crowd, for the young people, because the attitude was very positive and fighting a lot every point, like for 10 hours or 11 hours. Just amazing.”
Nadal’s title run on the heels of his fifth French Open championship was impressive, too.
In 2008, Nadal became the first player since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to sweep both majors. Federer pulled off the sweep last year, and now Nadal has done it twice.
“It didn’t happen since Borg,” Nadal said. “Now last three years it happens. How crazy is the life?”
While Spanish players were long considered clay-court specialists who couldn’t adapt to faster surfaces, Nadal spoke from the start of his career about wanting to do well at Wimbledon. Two years ago he became the first Spanish man to win Wimbledon since Manuel Santana in 1966, and now he’s the first Spanish man to win it twice.
“To play here for me was all my life a big goal,” Nadal said. “If you really want to play well on one surface and you are a good player, I think in the end you’re going to find a way.”
Nadal’s zeal was evident before the final began. He walked onto the Centre Court lawn holding a racket, eager to start swinging.
The No. 12-seeded Berdych upset Federer in the quarterfinals but couldn’t duplicate that performance, and a handful of points were his downfall. Nadal converted four of six break-point chances, and saved all four break points he faced.
“The biggest difference between us was that when he got a chance, he just took it,” Berdych said. “That just shows how strong he is.”
The gap between Nadal and the rest of the men’s tour widens. This week Novak Djokovic supplants Federer at No. 2 in the rankings, but the Serb hasn’t reached a Grand Slam final since winning his only major title at the 2008 Australian Open. Federer, now No. 3, has gone five months without a tournament title since winning this year’s Australian Open.
Nadal, meanwhile, is 31-1 with five titles since mid-April.
As the winner of eight major championships, he’s tied with such greats as Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl, but Nadal still seeks a breakthrough at the US Open. He has won other hard court tournaments, including the Australian Open, but his grinding style of play takes a toll on his body, especially his troublesome knees, and he has never been at a peak for the year’s final major tournament.
He lost in the semifinals the past two years and has yet to reach a final. Barely two hours after his latest London win, he wasn’t quite ready to start thinking about New York.
“For sure the US Open is going to be one of my goals for rest of my career,” he said. “But right now it’s to enjoy the beach, fishing, golf, friends, party and Mallorca.”