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Djokovic enters dreamland in SW19

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Originally published on: 03/07/11 17:06

Novak Djokovic proved that losing the French Open semi-final was merely a momentary blip in his scintillating season after superbly seeing off Rafael Nadal to claim his first Wimbledon crown. 

Djokovic powered to a 6-4 6-1 1-6 6-3 victory to end Nadal’s unbeaten SW19 run that had stretched back to the 2007 final, and lift his third Grand Slam title. 

“It’s really hard to describe this with any words. It’s the most special day of my life. This is my favourite tournament. The tournament I always dreamed of winning. I think I’m still sleeping,” said the jubilant Serb.  

“When you’re playing the best player in the world, I had to be on top of my game,” added the new world No.1. “I’ve probably played the best match on the grass courts ever.” 

Nadal, whose words were missed by the Centre Court crowd after trouble with the microphones, was humble and gracious as ever in spite of his fifth straight defeat to Djokovic this season.

“First of all congratulations to Novak for victory today and his amazing season,” said the 25-year-old. “I can imagine how Novak feels today. It is a very special day and I’d like to congratulate him.”  

Nadal won the toss, elected to receive, and fired several huge forehands of intent as he made the Serb work hard to hold serve early on. By the end of the opener, Nadal had made 81% of first serves compared to just 65% from Djokovic, but it was the rallied exchanges, not statistics, that truly separated the pair.  

At 4-5 Djokovic won three points on the bounce on Nadal’s serve, drilling a forehand down the line for 30-30, before forcing the Spaniard to fire into the net tape after a lengthy exchange. When Nadal struck the tape again on his first serve, Djokovic capitalised on the follow up, forcing his opponent deep of the court before the new world No.2 sprayed an inside out forehand into the tramlines to concede the opening set.  

Despite his solid serving, Nadal continued to be outfought in the baseline battles. With two opportunities to break in the Mallorcan’s opening service game in the second set, Djokovic clinched it on the first, pulling off a near-impossible get after racing diagonally across the court to the net from behind the right baseline and dragging a half volley acutely past Nadal. Come the sixth game, the 24-year-old Belgrade native had reason to celebrate again, sticking out his chest and pumping his fist after creating another dent in the Spaniard’s armour.  

Even though Nadal maintained his 81% first serve success rate from the opening set, he had won just 46% of points on it by the end of the second. Less than an hour and a quarter into the final, Djokovic had taken the second set – for the loss of just one game – and pulled up a two-sets-to-love advantage.  

Neither man is indestructible mind, highlighted by the fact that both had dropped three sets en route to their second respective Grand Slam final of 2011. Djokovic, who picked up his second Australian Open title in January, had dropped sets against Marcos Baghdatis, Bernard Tomic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in making his first final at the All England Club, while French Open champ Nadal had surrendered sets to Juan Martin del Potro, Mardy Fish and Andy Murray before booking a spot in his fifth final in his last five appearances in South West London. 

That in mind, Nadal set about reversing his fortunes in the third set. He struck an immediate break, before grabbing another in the sixth game to get a foot back into the match. Djokovic fought hard to hold at the start of the fourth, and though he went on to score an immediate break, Nadal took it straight back when his sliced return stopped dead on the net tape, before dribbling over to the Serb’s half of the court. It proved to be a body blow for Djokovic, who appeared to fight a battle between the ears as his hopes of serving out the contest in the fourth took a hit.  

Knowing that Nadal would be the favourite if the contest went to a decider, Djokovic settled again, pulling up three-break points and converting on the third to give him a chance to serve for the match.  

Nadal furiously punched his racket face after squandering the chance to go 0-30 ahead, shanking a drive long, but while he got the game back on keel at 30-30, Djokovic brought up championship point with a successful serve and volley effort.  

After bouncing the ball for what felt like an age on his first Championship point, Djokovic fired a thumping serve, drove the ball deep, and forced Nadal to send another forehand long as he fell to the floor in disbelief after securing the biggest title of his career.

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