Nadal puts on show of beauty to announce final intent

Unfolding under the appreciative gaze of Sir Trevor McDonald, the news from Centre Court yesterday was that Rafael Nadal will take some beating. While rarely scaling the heights he reached at Queen's, the No 2 seed deployed much of his thrilling repertoire to defeat the hard-hitting German qualifier Andreas Beck 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 and, although these are early days, the odds duly shortened on the likelihood of a third successive final between the Majorcan and his grass-court nemesis, Roger Federer. Not since the Wimbledon heyday of Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg 20-odd years ago have two men contested the final in three consecutive years.

If Federer's first-round match on Monday was all about the number six – his 60th consecutive win on grass leaving six men between him and his sixth Wimbledon title – Nadal v Beck revolved around the number two. Both men are 22 years of age, with Nadal ranked second in the world and Beck 122nd. The gap in quality was evident from the start, although Beck, making his Grand Slam debut and playing Nadal for the first time, at least has the satisfaction of knowing that he put the four-times French Open champion through his paces.

What paces they were, though. Nadal moved beautifully around the court, conjuring several winners from places he had no business even reaching. His mentor Manuel Santana, the last Spanish winner of the men's singles here in 1966, has said that Nadal would be entitled to feel confident this year even if Wimbledon were played on ice. That might be worth watching. Britain might even have a chance in the over-45s mixed doubles, by handing rackets to Torvill and Dean.

It was Santana, also a clay-court specialist, who was notoriously disdainful on first arriving at Wimbledon, suggesting that "grass is for cows". A singles title worked wonders in overcoming his dislike for the surface, but Nadal's discomfort on grass is already consigned to history. Asked yesterday if he feels he has improved on the green stuff, he said simply, in his engagingly broken English: "Last two years I played the final in Wimbledon." Indeed. Centre Court might yet challenge Court Philippe Chatrier for his affections.

If he is to triumph, however, and thus become only the third man in the Open era, after Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg, to hold both the Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles in the same year (he is already the first French Open champion since Ilie Nastase in 1973 to win at Queen's, illustrating the size of that achievement), he will have to move up half a gear. The advantages of playing left-handed were lost against a fellow southpaw, and there were times when Beck made him look almost mortal.

On the plus side, he served marvellously, using not just raw power to produce 17 aces – one less than his Wimbledon record against Andre Agassi two years ago – but also positional guile. At 2-3 and 15-30 down in the first set, he practically feathered a serve, which only just exceeded 100mph, but was so fiendishly angled that Beck couldn't have reached it with a bargepole. There followed a seventh-game break, and one more break early in the second set, then, to wrap up the match, a wholly one-sided 7-0 third-set tie-break as if to punish the German for having the temerity to force him that far.

Afterwards, as usual, he rewarded the spectators for their support with his sweatbands, leaving a pair of middle-aged women with the two most precious strips of towelling they will ever own. The Majorcan electrifies a tennis crowd like no other player currently operating, not even Federer. And the wattage is certain to increase as these championships progress.

As for Beck, he did about as well as a qualifier with no Grand Slam experience could realistically expect against Nadal, and can at least derive a tiny sliver of consolation from the performances elsewhere of a couple of his countrymen. Tommy Haas beat Guillermo Canas of Argentina while, more significantly, Benjamin Becker dumped out the No 4 seed, the Russian Nikolay Davydenko, in straight sets. With Boris Becker in the BBC commentary box cracking jokes like Peter Kay and Eddie Izzard combined, it was a good day for Becker and Becker, if not Beck. Now all they need is for 11 more compatriots to do the business in tonight's Euro 2008 semi-final against Turkey.

Nadal, meanwhile, is more interested in tomorrow evening's match, between Spain and Russia. Especially as it was his uncle Miguel Angel who goofed on another famous patch of London turf, missing in a penalty shoot-out at Euro '96 to hand the quarter-final to England. Half a dozen more wins here would certainly obliterate that old stain on the family name.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning:The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Sport
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier league

The Independent's live blog of today's Premier League action

News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
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.

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam