Djokovic seals his place at the head of new world order

First Wimbledon win confirms all-round supremacy after era of Federer and Nadal

What a year. What a run. What a player. When Novak Djokovic swept all before him at the start of this year – and even when he secured the world No 1 ranking by reaching yesterday's Wimbledon final – the only major question the 24-year-old Serb still faced was whether he had it in him to claim the biggest prize of all. He answered it in stunning fashion here yesterday, beating Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 to claim the title which he had dreamt of winning from his earliest days playing on a court near his parents' pizzeria in Serbia's mountains.

We knew Djokovic could beat anyone on hard courts and he had twice toppled Nadal, the king of clay, on his favourite territory, but this was glorious confirmation that he is a man for all seasons and all surfaces. In becoming only the third man in the Open era, after Michael Stich and Andre Agassi, to win his first grass-court title here, Djokovic has mastered a form of tennis which had previously been his greatest challenge and extended his rule over an opponent who used to get the better of him on a regular basis.

Nadal won 14 of his first 18 matches against Djokovic, but this was the Serb's fifth successive victory this year over the Spaniard, all of them in finals. Indeed, Djokovic has suffered just one defeat since last November, to Federer in the semi-finals of last month's French Open.

It is an astonishing turnaround in the world order of a game that had been utterly dominated by two men for the last six years. When Federer beat Nadal in the final of the World Tour Finals in London little more than seven months ago, there seemed no end in sight to the rule of the two greatest players of recent times, but Djokovic has not only broken their duopoly but also risen above them.

During that time he has led Serbia to their first Davis Cup victory, won two Grand Slam titles to add to the Australian Open he won three years ago and established a big lead at the top of the world rankings. He takes over as No 1 today, ending a run of seven-and- a-half years in which only Federer and Nadal have held the top spot. It was only the third defeat Nadal has suffered in 13 Grand Slam finals – all three losses have been here on Centre Court – and ended the defending champion's run of 20 successive victories at the All England Club.

From Rory McIlroy to Padraig Harrington and from Bjorn Borg to John Newcombe, the crowd was full of men who know what it takes to win a major. The Royal Box also contained an actual Major – Sir John – as well as the Serbian President, Boris Tadic.

On a warm afternoon with little breeze, the conditions were perfect. The court, too, was in magnificent condition. Has Centre Court ever looked in better shape at the end of this fortnight?

The lack of any bare patches other than along the baseline told you everything about where the game is played these days. Nevertheless, this was an occasion when Djokovic showed he can volley at the net with the best of them. The Serb's relentlessly accurate groundstrokes, driven with enormous power from the baseline, are his greatest asset, but this was an all-round display of excellence. Djokovic's serve has been a weakness in the past, but here he was so confident in it that he even played occasional serve-and-volley.

Nadal, uncharacteristically, made too many mistakes, did not play the big points well and frequently hit the ball too short. Both players played superb tennis on occasions, but there were too many lengthy passages in which they were not at the top of their game at the same time to make it a classic final.

Djokovic, however, has surely never played better than he did in the first two sets, in both of which he made just two unforced errors. Nadal also looked in excellent shape at the start, hitting huge forehand down-the-line winners on two of the first three points and even feeling confident enough to follow his serve into the net.

The Spaniard served superbly at the start, missing only five first serves in the first set but, crucially, three of them were on the last four points. There had been no break points until then, but as Nadal faltered Djokovic suddenly upped his game, just as he had at the same stage of a similarly close first set against Andy Murray in this year's Australian Open final.

At 30-30, Nadal, attempting to run around his backhand after Djokovic had cracked a big return, put a forehand in the net. Another hammered return on the next point gave Djokovic the chance to put away a forehand winner to take the first set after 41 minutes.

Nadal had a whiff of a chance in the opening game of the second set, putting a smash long at 30-30, and was brutally punished for not taking it as Djokovic broke him twice in his next three service games. Some of the Serb's play was sensational as he hit the lines with a succession of blistering shots from both sides. The point of the match saw Nadal hit a huge inside-out forehand down the line, only for Djokovic to crack it back with equal force for a glorious backhand cross-court winner.

There were times when Nadal, the great counter-attacker, must have felt he was looking in a mirror as Djokovic repeatedly turned defence into attack and forced him on to the back foot.

With the first two sets in the bag after just 74 minutes, Djokovic appeared to be coasting, but Nadal responded in the style of a champion. Djokovic played his worst game of the match when serving at the start of the second set, while Nadal went for broke on his returns. The outgoing world No 1 created his first break point when Djokovic, under attack, put a forehand wide and the stadium erupted when the Serb netted a limp backhand on the next point.

Just as Djokovic had run away with the second set, so Nadal did with the third. Djokovic, looking rattled for the first time, dropped his serve again at 4-1 with his first double-fault of the match and Nadal promptly served out for the set.

Could Nadal, the ultimate competitor, become the first man to win a Wimbledon final from two sets down for 84 years? The Spaniard had the momentum, but was unable to maintain it, dropping serve after a succession of loose shots in the second game of the fourth set. He broke back immediately, courtesy of a chipped return that struck the top of the net and dropped stone-dead on Djokovic's side, but at 3-4 played his worst service game of the match.

Nadal's first double-fault of the afternoon, two ragged backhands and a netted forehand following some astonishing defence from Djokovic, gave the Serb the chance to serve for the match. A nervy forehand on the first point suggested he was tightening up, but at 30-30 he rediscovered the confidence to set up match point by playing serve-and-volley, after which Nadal put a backhand long to hand the Serb victory.

The first Serbian champion at the All England Club fell on his back in celebration and after embracing Nadal at the net sank to his knees, plucked a piece of grass and placed it in his mouth. Victory has never tasted sweeter.

Djokovic's mastery of Nadal

* Five in a row

This was the fifth time the Serb and the Spaniard have met in a final this year – and the fifth victory for Djokovic:

* ATP Masters, Indian Wells 4-6, 6-3, 6-2

* ATP Masters, Miami 4-6, 6-3, 7-6

* ATP Masters, Madrid 7-5, 6-4

* ATP Masters, Rome 6-4, 6-4

* Wimbledon 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3

* Djokovic's 2011 roll of honour
Australian Open
Dubai Championships
ATP Masters, Indian Wells
ATP Masters, Miami
Serbia Open
ATP Masters, Madrid
ATP Masters, Rome
Wimbledon

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone