Wimbledon Final 2010: Will Rafael Nadal Win His Eighth Slam?

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Wimbledon Final 2010: Will Rafael Nadal Win His Eighth Slam?
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Some thought he was done. 

In a sport whose landscape can change in the blink of an eye, and whose players can go from complete domination to an afterthought, it's particularly amazing what Rafael Nadal has managed to do over the course of the last four months.  He's managed to come back to a level most players can only imagine.

After what can only be described as a year of trials and tribulations, Nadal is better, hungrier, and ready to hold on the the mantle of "World's Greatest Player."

But the Wimbledon final tomorrow may prove to be one of his biggest hurdles.

By winning tomorrow, he will undoubtedly be the best in the world, and winning on it's most hallowed and glorious stage. In many ways it is as important a win as any in his career because it's against a player not name Roger Federer.

Against Federer, Nadal has always had a solid and uncomplicated game plan. Forehand and serve to the backhand, rinse and repeat.

But now his finals opponent is Tomas Berdych whose giant serve and forehand can cause Nadal the kind of problems he doesn't want to deal with. 

Berdych is currently operating at the highest level of his career. The nerves and overall lack of consistency have been absent over the last couple of months, and his style of play is conducive to Wimbledon more than any other.

Berdych can win, but it will take a monumental effort on many, many levels in order to do so. His serve must be nearly flawless, and his forehand and backhand must be zoned in. More importantly though, his head must never waver and that I think will prove to be the biggest obstacle.

When Nadal faced Federer at Wimbledon for the first time in 2006, nerves and his still-developing game proved to be his downfall. He admitted afterwards that there were moments in the match where he tightened up. He was playing at Wimbledon and against Federer in his house.

Now, Berdych is facing Nadal who in many ways is defending his crown from 2008. The prospect of facing a legendary player in his first slam final and on the sports biggest stage may be wonderful, but it's also one rife with tension and expectations.

Nadal on the other hand has been through it all. 

After his final at Wimbledon in 2008 when he fought tooth an nail to beat Federer at his highest level, I believe that falling prey to nerves is beyond Nadal at this stage. 

He knows how to handle the big moments. He knows how to keep the tension from taking over.

Nadal has played differently this year. Rather than using his defense to wear down his opponents, he's been playing much more aggressively. His match against Andy Murray was a perfect example of this.

For much of the match, he played on or inside the baseline and took advantage of every opportunity possible. He took balls on the rise and when there happened to be a short ball, he pounced.

Though some may not have noticed, this slight change in style of play is to help battle the tall powerful baseline players that Nadal has struggled against in the past. 

In the past, Nadal would play great defense, but the big players would still wear him down. Now he goes for outright winners.  He aims for the corners, cuts sharper cross-court angles and hits harder now than ever before.

His unforced error count might be a bit higher, but it keeps players on their heels more as they can't find a rhythm to attack. 

Just ask Murray. He can tell you all about it.

Tomorrow's final will be a big one. I'm sure it will be filled with huge serves from Berdych and amazing defense from Nadal. But eventually I think Nadal's aggressive style of play, and relentless iron will to win will wear down Berdych's confidence.

 

The score: Nadal d. Berdych  6-4, 7-6, 5-7, 6-3

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