'Andy is a better player than many who have won a Grand Slam'

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The Independent Online

It will not be the final for which British fans had yearned, but tomorrow's confrontation between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic brings together the two outstanding players of the year.

The match could hardly be better balanced. Djokovic won the first Grand Slam title of the year in Melbourne and Nadal the second in Paris. Nadal will go into the match as world No 1 but knows that, whatever the result, Djokovic will knock him off his perch in Monday's updated ranking list.

Djokovic, who has beaten Nadal in all four of their meetings this year, has been in dogged pursuit of the world No 1 ranking during a remarkable first six months of the year during which he has won seven titles and lost just once, to Roger Federer in the French Open. Djokovic's victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in yesterday's first semi-final ensured that Nadal's 13-month reign at the top of the world order would end next week.

While Djokovic will be playing in his first Wimbledon final, Nadal has reached the final in his past five visits here. He lost to Federer in his first two but has won the past two and is now on a 20-match unbeaten run here.

Nadal will be playing in his 13th Grand Slam final – a remarkable achievement for a man who turned 25th only last month – and will be aiming to emulate Bjorn Borg's achievement of winning the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double three times.

The Spaniard insisted that losing the world No 1 ranking was not a major setback. "For me the big goal is to be healthy and to be competitive every time when I am on court and try to be at my best in the important moments in every tournament. Yes, today I lost the No 1 ranking. One guy played unbelievably in the first half of the year so he's the new No 1. We can just congratulate him because what he did in the first part of the season is something really impressive, really fantastic."

Nadal admitted that Djokovic might have a psychological advantage "because he won the last four finals against me". He added: "I will try my best. I think I'm playing well, really well. We will see what happens on Sunday."

The Spaniard had words of consolation for his beaten semi-final opponent. "Andy Murray today didn't win a Grand Slam, but he's a much better player than a lot of players who have won Grand Slams in the past," he said.

"I played very well to win against Andy. I need to play my best tennis. He's a great champion. To beat him the only way is to play really great shots. I did that today.

"It's a dream to be back in the final. I feel sad for Andy. I think he deserved to be in the final. I wish him all the best for the rest of the year and the US Open."

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