Majestic Nadal brings Berdych crashing back down to earth

It was a moment of pure joy, one that typified the character of a player who combines sporting brilliance with a natural warmth and a boyish joie de vivre that make him a crowd favourite the world over. After a consoling word for Tomas Berdych, the man he had just beaten, Rafael Nadal performed a forward roll that might have come straight from the school playground before leaning backwards and bellowing out a great roar of celebration.

This may have been one of the less memorable Wimbledon finals of recent years, but that was clearly of no concern to the Spaniard. Twelve months after his troublesome knees had denied him the chance to defend the Wimbledon title he had wrested so dramatically from Roger Federer in 2008, Nadal needed just two hours and 13 minutes to claim his second All England Club championship, winning 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

It was a hugely popular victory. Not only is Nadal a wonderfully entertaining player and a remarkable athlete, but he is also a sportsman whose humility and grace are appreciated by all.

To have come back so strongly after a year in which he struggled with injuries and went 11 months without winning a title is an extraordinary achievement. He has only just turned 24 and if his knees hold out in the years to come he could go on to surpass even the records that Federer, his great rival, has been breaking with such regularity.

Berdych had beaten Federer and Novak Djokovic, the world's No 2 and No 3 players, en route to his first Grand Slam final, but a victory over the world No 1 never looked on the cards. The 24-year-old Czech did not break serve once and when the pressure mounted on his own, the 6ft 5in giant was brought crashing to earth.

The conditions could hardly have been better – a warm and sunlit afternoon was disturbed only by an occasional breeze – but in truth the match was short on entertainment. The Wimbledon public has undoubtedly been spoilt by the last four men's finals (three Nadal-Federer encounters and last year's marathon between Federer and Andy Roddick), which all provided both high-quality tennis and engrossing drama; this, in contrast, was a contest that lacked either variety or a competitive edge.

While Berdych has a booming serve and huge ground strokes, he is a one-dimensional player, with little subtlety to his game. With Nadal adopting his traditional position at the back of the court, the match became a baseline war of attrition. Neither man played serve-and-volley once and there was barely a lob or drop shot all afternoon.

Nadal clearly saw no need to change his tactics. The depth and quality of the Spaniard's ground strokes meant Berdych was unable to strike the ball with his usual power from the back of the court, while his defence – which he can so quickly turn into attack – was outstanding. The Spaniard's serve has been a weakness in the past, but Berdych seemed unable to read it. The quality of some of Nadal's second serves, in particular, was stunning.

Berdych, who moves well for such a big man but does not come close to matching Nadal's athleticism, was never going to win a baseline slugging match. When he did come forward, the Czech showed a reasonable touch at the net, but he seemed to lack the confidence to do so often enough. Most crucially of all, the big man's nerve went at the crucial moments. He may not be the fragile character he once was – at one stage you wondered whether he was from the Choke Republic – but the pressure of playing in his first Grand Slam final seemed to get to him.

For long periods, nevertheless, Berdych held serve with apparent ease. He started confidently enough, dropping only two points in his first three service games, but at 3-3 he was broken to love thanks to a combination of his own carelessness and Nadal's brilliant returns. Two games later Berdych's three missed forehands helped his opponent to another break and the first set, which took only 34 minutes.

Nadal's most difficult service game followed immediately. As the Spaniard's level dipped momentarily in the opening game of the second set, Berdych forced his first break points. The crowd, clearly wanting more of a contest, sprang to life in support of the underdog, but Nadal defended his ground with the iron resolve that has become his trademark. A forehand winner behind a big first serve saved the first break point, a swinging second serve out wide saved the second and on the third Berdych managed to put a forehand into the net.

An uneventful second set, in which the crowd became increasingly subdued, appeared to be heading for a tie-break until Berdych served at 5-6. Having dropped only four points on his serve in his first five service games of the set, the Czech promptly handed Nadal four more on a plate. Two wild forehands and a missed volley gave the world No 1 three set points, only one of which he needed, Berdych missing the target with another careless forehand.

In the third set Berdych, at last, started to appreciate that his best chance of breaking Nadal's serve would be to attack the net at every possibility. At 1-1, those tactics forced his last break point of the contest, but it came and went as fast as it took him to dump a backhand into the net.

When he served at 4-5, Berdych bravely fought back from 0-30 down to 40-30, but at deuce another ragged forehand gave Nadal match point. The Spaniard converted it in appropriate fashion, cracking a winning forehand crosscourt pass as Berdych moved into the net.

Nadal's immediate reaction to victory was to fall flat on his back but he was soon on his feet, shaking Berdych's hand, before performing that forward roll. It is a celebration we may well see time and time again in the years and months to come.

Rafa's record

Nadal's Grand Slam Triumphs

2005: ......... French Open
2006: ......... French Open
2007: ......... French Open
2008: ......... French Open, Wimbledon
2009: ......... Australian Open
2010: ......... French Open, Wimbledon


Nadal's 2010

Doha: .....................Runner-up
Australian Open: ......... Quarter-finals
Indian Wells Masters: .....................Semi-finals
Miami Masters: ......... Semi-finals
Monte Carlo Masters: .....................Won
Rome Masters: ......... Won
Madrid Masters: ......... Won
French Open: ......... Won
Queen's Club: ......... Quarter-finals
Wimbledon:......... Won

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open