Rafael Nadal once again picked the final day of a big championship to turn in a regal performance. He was clinical in his 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 demolition of Czech Tomas Berdych.
Berdych had a great Wimbledon. He came to the final having accounted for the world no. 2 and 3. When asked if the pressure of playing in his first Grand Slam final had affected him, Berdych insisted, “Definitely not.”
Nadal went into Sunday’s match as a strong favourite but he said, “If you are not nervous in the final of Wimbledon, you are not human.”
“I don’t expect anything before the match,” Nadal said. “I expect to play my best in every point and try to fight every point like the last, but I don’t think about if I’m going to have a difficult match or if I’m going to lose or win. I just try to go on court and fight every point.”
Before the final on Sunday, Tomas Berdych said that he does not fear anyone after his giant-killing feats in the two previous matches. Nadal, though, said that Berdych is a dangerous player who is in form, and that it would be a very tough match.
And it was a very tough match if you were Tomas Berdych. He was up against a force that was unbending, unyielding, and ferocious. It was a force that shredded the resistance of the big-serving Czech with ease. Nadal demonstrated on court what is meant by playing without fear.
Berdych had played some marvellous tennis to get to the finals but on the big day, he just couldn’t find a way. “I think the biggest difference between us was that when he got a chance he took it, you know,” Berdych said. “That just shows how strong he is. I think it was really just about the small differences.”
The Spaniard, break point down on no fewer than four occasions, remained unbroken, but capitalised on four of the six break points he earned on the Berdych serve.
This is what Oliver Holt of The Mirror had to say after Nadal’s semifinal win against the home favourite Andy Murray:
“ The bloke that Andy Murray played on Centre Court yesterday wasn’t any ordinary tennis player. It was Conan the Tennis Player. It was a barbarian who bludgeoned Murray into submission with brute force and murderous strength. It was a man whose displays of raw power made the genteel crowd titter nervously in their seats.
Sometimes it felt more like a fight than a tennis match. Murray knows boxing. He must have felt like Trevor Berbick on the wrong end of a Mike Tyson left hook.
He lost in straight sets but he did not play badly. It was just that he didn’t play well enough. He came close, just not close enough. This was not an abject defeat. It was not a loss of nerve or an abrogation of responsibility. It was not listlessness or lack of effort that did for Murray. This was not England versus Germany in Bloemfontein. It was not the kind of loss that shamed the loser.
It was just a bow to a better man, an illustration that Nadal has the heart of a champion and Murray still harbours the doubts of a challenger.”
Berdych had swept aside the challenge of Federer and Djokovic with ease but against Nadal, he could not strike. He stayed with Nadal in the beginning of all three sets but towards their business end, it was always Berdych who faltered and Nadal who raised his level. The inevitability of the result was as clear as it was when Berdych was demolishing his adversaries in the two matches prior to reaching the final.
The first set was 3-3 and it seemed that a keen contest was at hand before Nadal broke Berdych twice to win three straight games and take the set 6-3. Nadal may have been forced to raise his level had Berdych caused more damage with that fizzing, slapped forehand of his.
But the Spaniard didn’t give him many opportunities to unleash that marvelous stroke that caused the downfall of Federer and Djokovic.
In the opening set, Berdych’s first serve percentage was a low 48 percent, while Nadal got 60 percent of his first serves in. Nadal also won 92 percent of the points when he got them in compared to 67 percent for Berdych. Berdych had no break point opportunity in the first set while Nadal had four and converted two.
The best chance for Berdych came in the opening game of the second set where Nadal made two double faults and Berdych had a small opening. The chance went begging and Nadal held his serve. Berdych got his first serve percentage up to 64 percent in the second set and had seven aces compared to one for Nadal.
Three break point opportunities came Berdych’s way but he could not convert any, while Nadal got just one chance and he nailed it to take the set 7-5. In the final set, Nadal and Berdych had one opportunity each and Nadal took his.
Yes, it was just about small differences like Berdych said, but they were small differences that came in really big moments. And Nadal showed that he was the one who had the heart to seize the big moments.