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July 1, 2011

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Wimbledon 2011, London, England, UK
July 1, 2011
Editorial by Jane Voigt.


Jane Voigt Photo
Jane Voigt

Djokovic and Nadal into Finals
July 1, 2011 -- Are we all set for the brilliant weekend of finals? Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova, plus newly knighted finalists Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal? You bet.
Coming up on Centre Court for the 125th anniversary celebration of The Championships Wimbledon will be the women's singles final tomorrow. For Kvitova, it's her premier on the most prestigious court in the world. For Sharapova, her entrance will mark only her second final.
On Sunday the men will perform. Rafael Nadal will play his fifth Wimbledon final. He has won twice: 2008 and 2010. You can be sure he'll want to reach three especially since the man across the net will be his current nemesis: Novak Djokovic. Particularly irksome for the Spaniard and defending champion is Djokovic's projected rise to the number one ranking on Monday. He deposed Nadal after defeating Jo-Wilfred Tsonga today in the semifinals: 76(4) 62 67(9) 63.
"I've been working all my life for this," Djokovic told Phil Jones of the BBC, immediately following his win. "It's one of the best feelings [I've] ever had on a tennis court."
This is Djokovic's first venture to the final at Wimbledon. He lost last year to Tomas Berdych in the semifinals. In 2007, Djokovic lost to Nadal in the semifinals when he retired in the fourth set. But that seems like a lifetime ago.
Until his loss to Roger Federer in the semifinals at Roland Garros, Djokovic held a match record of 41-0. After his hiatus for the three weeks between the two majors, he started up where he left off -- on the winning side of each match. He's now an impressive 47-1.
Be prepared for the men's final to be a bit edgy. Nadal and Djokovic have faced off twenty-seven times, Nadal holding the lead 16-11. Nadal defeated Djokovic in the U. S. Open last year and in London at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Those matches came before Djokovic woke up to his nation's calling -- winning The Davis Cup.
Since then the Serbian has dazzled the world with his improved serve, ability to move the ball around the court, and his already lethal return of serve. Plus ... a confidence level that touches on the invincible.
Djokovic went on to win the Australian Open, the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, and two back-to-back clay court Masters 1000 tournaments in Madrid and Rome. He defeated Nadal at all these events except the Australian Open. The #2 seed Djokovic won 7 titles this spring.
Djokovic's victories at Indian Wells and Miami had to have been difficult for Nadal to tolerate. In Miami, he admitted that Novak was simply the best, that 'for sure he's gonna be number one soon.' But Djokovic's wins in Madrid and Rome must have left Nadal crushed. He'd been defeated on his beloved red clay.
Steve Tignor, in his recently published book High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and the Untold Story of Tennis's Fiercest Rivalry, described the match up between Borg and McEnroe in the 1980 Wimbledon final as 'a knife fight.'
That's what the Djokovic and Nadal rivalry feels like, too. Although they remain civil and speak kindly about each other off court, the tension during their matches is palpable. It will be there on Sunday, too.
Jo-Wilfred Tsonga was Djokovic's stepping-stone to the final, and a rather familiar face. Djokovic defeated the Frenchman in the 2007 Australian Open.
The first set of the semifinal left many wondering if Novak could do it, or if nerves would turn his fluid strokes to awkward stabs. Tsonga broke Djokovic the first game of the match.
Djokovic was obviously not in top form. His first serve percentage was too low and Tsonga took advantage of second serves. However, Djokovic was patient. As Tsonga served for the first set at 5-4, Novak pounced going on to win the next two games. Tsonga lost the set in a tiebreak.
Djokovic remained focused. He broke Tsonga twice in the second set and early in the third.
"I was nervous to start the match," Djokovic admitted. "Then I broke him and decided to earn the match."
Tsonga wasn't done, though. At the end of the third, he drew even at 5-games all and won a dramatic tiebreak at nine. But that would be it. Djokovic's finest returns and serving stats were saved for the fourth and final set. Tsonga had no way to defend.
"I tried to take my chance on every point, but he ran everywhere," Tsonga said.
Their match was laced with some fantastic acrobatic tennis. They dove and rolled and got back up to hit winners. The crowd was on its feet. Even Pippa Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge sister, seemed impressed.
"Definitely the most important achievement of my life," Djokovic said in his press conference. "It feels amazing. Being in the Wimbledon final is the thing for me."
If Andy Murray had continued to play as he did in the first set -- as if he was on steroids -- everyone in England would be on the streets celebrating. He gave them hope. Only two sets to go.
But in the second the soon-to-be-anointed Scottish wonder boy, the one that could have put an end to the 75-year drought, wigged out. And he did it after one missed forehand, which gave Nadal the break chance he needed. He won the next six games, and broke Murray three times.
"He was playing fantastic at the beginning and probably had an important mistake with an easy forehand he played long," Nadal explained. "So probably that's one of the turning points of the match."
Murray can't be blamed for one hundred percent of his troubles. Nadal had a lot to do with them. He picked up his first-serve percentage and forced error after error off Murray's racquet. Nadal drove Murray to mutter and scream at his box. Here was the familiar Murray, the one who complains and slowly but surely retreats from an offensive posture to a defensive one. Yet Murray kept up his offense. He stuck to the plan, exhibiting spirited play in the face of probable defeat.
"I was playing very high-risk tennis for most of the match," Murray said. "I went for it today, and I started to make a few mistakes after that."
Murray finished with 42 unforced errors to Nadal's 7. The final score of their match was 57 62 62 64.
About his upcoming final against Djokovic, Nadal said, "Always is tough, really difficult to play against Novak. He's playing fantastic this year already. He only lost one match during all the season and I lost already four times this year. So will be really difficult for me. But, I think, I am playing well and I will try my best as always."
Djokovic will try his best, too.


Earlier Columns from this Event:
June 30, 2011 Wimbledon: Kvitova and Sharapova In Final
June 29, 2011 Wimbledon: 178 and 1
June 28, 2011 Wimbledon: The Women
June 27, 2011 Wimbledon: Mixed Bag
June 26, 2011 Wimbledon: The Queue
June 25, 2011 Wimbledon: Wimbledon So Far
June 24, 2011 Wimbledon: Raining Seeds at Wimbledon
June 23, 2011 Wimbledon: Coming Back
June 22, 2011 Wimbledon: Behind The Scenes
June 21, 2011 Wimbledon: Touched
June 20, 2011 Wimbledon: Tradition

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