Too darn good. Sometimes you just have to raise your hands and say you were beaten by a better man and that's what Andy Murray had to do yesterday.
The Briton gave almost the best of himself – while letting a few, key chances get away – but in all honesty I think that Rafael Nadal's form is just so hot, even a top-level Murray performance would probably not have been good enough.
Before we consider all the positives for Murray going forward, let's consider just how awesome Nadal was yesterday. In the whole first set he made one unforced error. One. That is close to perfection, something rarely seen in our sport. In the third set he made two unforced errors. This is laughably, fantastically brilliant. And in the middle set, Rafa made 11 unforced errors for a total in the match of 14. Murray made 19 in all, spread evenly.
We can talk for hours about Nadal's strengths and they were there for all to see: power, movement, even bending the ball to his will at times. Nadal has seven Slam titles already, he hasn't lost to anyone but the GOAT (Roger Federer) at Wimbledon since 2005, and will probably have eight Slams and a second Wimbledon by sundown tomorrow.
That is the context to understand Murray's performance. Just a few key points made the difference, certainly in the first two sets. In fact, Murray won more points in the second set, 42-41. The crucial break in the first set came from a rare double-fault (nerves?) and a moment of hesitancy, which meant hitting wide and handing Nadal the break. That was the difference in that set.
The difference in the second set for me was at 6-5 to Murray in the breaker, and serving. He put his first one in the net, which was a shame on a day when his serving was generally brilliant. In a point started on the second serve, Murray was punished by a Nadal low, backhand cross-court volley to earn a reprieve at 6- 6.
An unlucky net-cord pass made it 7-6 to Rafa, who then served out. Again, small differences, but hugely significant. Rafa played the big points better, as great champions tend to do.
By the third set, Murray broke but Rafa still had gears to click up through, and when he did, he brought it home. Murray, by now a little deflated (understandably), could hold out no longer.
So, what next for Murray? Good things, surely. He's still in the ascendant, something that can't be said for Federer. Murray is still young, 23, and there are years of Slam opportunities opening up in front of him. He's been a real contender at this Wimbledon, and I see no reason, physical, technical or mental, why he cannot continue to be a contender for years to come.
Winning a Slam is never easy. Think about it: a man as talented as Andy Roddick has just one to his name. Murray will improve for his experiences in the four Slam semis and the two finals. There's much more to come.
Men's Final: Tomas Berdych v Rafael Nadal
Nadal's grace and power will topple Czech
So we've got a brutally consistent baseliner against a monster talent capable of ferocious force. Berdych is the former, of course, standing 6ft 5in tall and in possession of that enormous serve and those pounding, flat groundies. His chance lies in demolition tactics, hoping that his serve never waivers, in which case we'll get tie-breakers, and your big server is generally going to be favoured in breakers.
But Nadal is a different class of opponent. That leftie serve is big in its own right and consistent, and dangerous for all the usual leftie reasons. His movement is absolutely phenomenal. Points that would be winners against any other man on tour cannot be counted as winners against Nadal until his feet have stopped moving in the chase and he hasn't reached it.
For all the brutality of Nadal's strokes, he can also be so, so graceful in the execution of drop shots, either killing points softly but surely or luring opponents in and then hammering a passing shot with savage power. The man is a colossus and if he's fit – and he says his knee his fine – then it will take some incredible performance to overcome him.
This pair have met on 10 previous occasions and Berdych had all three of his wins within their first four meetings in 2005 and 2006. They're the same age – 24 – and while Nadal more than lived up to his youthful billing, Berdych has taken longer to shine. Nadal has won the last six meetings on the trot, however.
Nadal has the big-stage experience, and temperament. Bombs from the baseline will only get Berdych so far. I think they might get him a set, at most, but I take Rafa to cement his position as the world's best player.
Head-to-Head: Tomas Berdych v Rafael Nadal
Czech / Nationality / Spanish
24 / Age / 24
Monaco / Residence / Majorca
2002 / Turned Pro / 2001
Right-handed / Plays / Left-handed
6ft 5in / Height / 6ft 1in
No 13 / World ranking / No 1
5 / Career titles / 40
$6m / Career prize-money / $31.2m
W20 L6 / Wimbledon record / W28 L4
Final (2010) / Wimbledon best / W (2008)
Head-to-head: Nadal leads 7-3
5-2 / Odds / 1-3
Bollettieri's prediction: Nadal in fourReuse content