New World No. 1 Novak Djokovic defeated defending champion Rafael Nadal in the men’s final at the All England Club Sunday, claiming his first Wimbledon championship in two hours and 28 minutes.
The Serb served up 21 winners, including seven aces as opposed to 12 unforced errors. Nadal was not far behind with 21 winners, five aces and 15 unforced errors.
The break point conversion was the most critical stat, with Djokovic breaking Nadal in five of six opportunities, while Nadal converted only three of his six chances to break serve.
Prior to the men’s final at Wimbledon, Djokovic won his last four meetings with the former world No. 1, Nadal. The four tournaments were, in fact, consecutive Masters events at Rome, Madrid, Miami and Indian Wells—all in 2011.
The Serb was enjoying an outstanding year on the tennis courts. In fact, Djokovic managed to win 43 in a row before Roger Federer defeated him during the French Open semifinals. Now the Serb has a 48-1 winning record to build upon during the American hard-court season starting later this month.
Even though Nadal led in their head-to-head 16-11, Djokovic had won seven of their last nine meetings––now eight of their last 10.
The only other time they had met in a major final, however, was the 2010 U.S. Open; Nadal won 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.
On Sunday, Djokovic responded positively to the fact of his imminent No. 1 ranking as he took his place on Centre Court. From the early going it appeared the Serb was going to anoint his ascension to the top of men’s tennis by winning his first Wimbledon Championship.
Nadal came out blazing, bouncing and ready to rumble. The No. 1 seed was serving brilliantly in the first set, getting more than 90 percent of his first serves in.
Even so, Nadal needed to serve that well to stay in the match with Djokovic, who was moving as smooth as ice.
With Nadal serving at 4-5 to level the opening set, Djokovic broke him during his first break point opportunity, taking the first set 6-4.
Quickly following, Djokovic broke the Nadal serve twice to take set No. 2, 6-1.
Reeling, Nadal seemed totally helpless to find a way to stay level with Djokovic in the first two sets. The questions began as commentators speculated about his ability to extend the Serb beyond three sets.
In the first two sets, Nadal had to come up with perfect shots to stay alive, even during his own service games because Djokovic played almost perfect tennis.
But in the third set, the tide began to turn. Nadal held to open, then gained a love-30 lead on the Djokovic serve. Finally Nadal won his first break point, also his first of the match.
Nadal broke in the second game of Set 3 to go up 2-0.
The third set was a repeat of the second, only this time it was Nadal who broke twice to take the third set, 6-1.
Was Nadal going to fight all the way back in this match, the commentators wondered.
Djokovic broke first in the fourth set, taking an early 2-0 lead, but Nadal broke right back to 2-1. The two stayed on serve until 4-3 when Djokovic managed to break the Nadal serve again to go up 5-3 and serve for the match.
The Serb held his nerve, serving it out for the set and the match, to win his first Wimbledon championship.
Djokovic sealed his new No. 1 ranking with an exclamation point to mark a year where (so far) the Serb has lost just one match.
He became the first man since 2002 not named Federer or Nadal to lift the President’s Cup in victory. It was truly a changing-of-the-guard moment, as "Nole" celebrated a great victory on Centre Court.
In terms of the quality of play of the 2011 final, no match can equal the greatest Wimbledon men’s final of all time between Nadal and Federer in 2008. That match was just a bit more dramatic than the 1980 final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, which comes in second.
Both of those historic Wimbledon finals lasted five sets, as the men fought for supremacy on Centre Court with the outcome always in doubt.
Today’s match was a far cry from those classics, but it stands out historically as the moment in time when Djokovic officially assumed his place at the top of the men’s game, supplanting both Nadal and Federer, who had both dominated since 2005 (Federer’s reign even goes back to 2004).
There seems to be nothing or no one standing in the Serb’s way as he heads into the hard-court season; synthetics surfaces have been his best.
There is also no reason to suspect Djokovic will not dominate on the hard courts as well as he has on grass and clay. The Serb will be aiming to take his third major of the year at the U.S. Open, which gets underway at the end of August.