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July 3, 2011

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Wimbledon 2011, London, England, UK
July 3, 2011
Editorial by Jane Voigt.


Jane Voigt Photo
Jane Voigt

Novak Djokovic ... Gentlemen's Singles Champion
July 3, 2011 -- Novak Djokovic said he had nothing to prove in this final. Yet he proved to the world that the dominance of the once impenetrable duo of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer might have come to an end. That the Open Era's gates have swung open and are welcoming new champions.
The same applies to the women's game. Petra Kvitova stepped through the gates yesterday, sending a loud message to Maria Sharapova, the Williams' sisters, Caroline Wozniacki, and Kim Clijsters that their time on the lawns of Wimbledon and at every other slam could be crumbling. It was the Czech's first Grand Slam final, and she won it.
Novak Djokovic didn't compete today in his first major final -- he'd won the Australian Open twice. He did face, though, the defending Wimbledon champion and favorite to repeat. However Djokovic beat the odds pick in four emphatic sets: 64 61 16 63.
"Words can't describe how I feel," Djokovic said. "I've made my dream come true. This is the best day of my tennis career and my life." Nadal played in his 13th slam final today, having won 11. Roger Federer won the other two. No one had won the gentlemen's singles crown at Wimbledon except Nadal and Federer since 2002 when Lleyton Hewitt captured the title.
"The careers of Nadal and Roger have been dominant for the last five years," Djokovic said. "Sometimes it did feel a little bit frustrating."
Since Djokovic won his second Australian; and, Nadal won his sixth Roland Garros this year, the leveling of the players' field came down to the lawns of Wimbledon. Whoever won would reign supreme, going forward to the hard courts of America and to the final slam -- the U. S. Open -- and beyond. The only negative trend going against the Serbian was his record against Nadal in majors - 0-5.
With his victory today, Djokovic validated his number one position on the ATP rankings, which will be posted tomorrow. He had been nestled at #2 and #3 for four years, honing his tennis skills, mental toughness, physical fitness, and patience ... waiting for his time while earning it.
"It's a process of learning and developing and improving as a tennis player and a person," Djokovic began, "And finding a way to mentally overcome."
Novak becomes only the second player in the Open Era to win the top spot and a major title since 2004 when Roger Federer won the Australian Open in concert with the #1 ranking.
Djokovic's rising signals not so much a changing of the guard, as a concerted effort on the Serbian's part to have earned his rite of passage. As many know, his record year began in 2010 at The Davis Cup finals, which Serbia won for the first time.
"After winning Davis Cup, I lost my fear," Djokovic told the press.
Since then the only man to derail Djokovic was Federer in the semifinals at Roland Garros. With that one mark on his resume, Djokovic's record for the year is 48-1, which is only a notch away from John McEnroe's best start to 1984: 52-1.
Many facets of Djokovic's game had to improve before this year's results were possible -- before he could even dream of hoisting the gilded gentlemen's trophy, which was made in 1877. His serve was a huge liability, but is a solid asset now. His confidence was shaky, which resulted from poor serving. His forehand needed more bite. His health was problematic, but no more since he began a gluten-free diet that lead to improved endurance and better movement.
"My game doesn't bother him a lot," Nadal said. "I've lost to him five times. The mental part is dangerous for me."
Rafael Nadal was the first Spaniard to win Wimbledon in 2008 since Manolo Santana in 1966. The match against Federer became an instant classic, as Nadal put an end to the Swiss maestro's 5-year winning streak. Nadal had learned the nature of grass court tennis and the secrets of defeating one of the greatest grass-court players of all time.
Perhaps Nadal can sense now what Roger Federer so deeply felt after his loss three years ago. Djokovic has certainly planted himself firmly inside Nadal's head, which added to his unforced error total and to the loss. He had 7 over four sets in the semifinal, and 15 today. Djokovic's relentless defense was reminiscent of the Spaniard's, which must have caused him countless moments of frustration.
Djokovic is anything but a great grass-court player. Until this year, it had been his worst surface, although he lost to Tomas Berdych in the semifinals last year. The same story line runs through Petra Kvitova's short career at the All England Club. She lost last year in the semis to Serena Williams, then came back and won the title yesterday, in her first Wimbledon final.
What propelled the Serbian and the Czech to victory this weekend was their mental strength.
"The victories in four finals [this year against Rafael] brought me confidence," Djokovic told Sue Barker of the BBC. And yesterday he told Christopher Clarey of the New York Times, "I feel fit in this moment. It's my first Wimbledon final, and the four times I've won against him [Nadal] this year can probably help me in some ways mentally."
For Petra, too, focusing on one point at a time was key, especially with numerous breaks of serve, "My serve wasn't so good, so I have to keep mentally good. I was focused only on the point and on the game and not on the final and the medal."
"My mental focus not so good today," Nadal admitted, as he talked with John McEnroe immediately after the match. "I had chances at 4-3 in the fourth but ... few mistakes more than usual with forehand."
"I've matured mentally and believe I can win," Novak told Sue Barker. Later he added, "I thought I always had the qualities to win Grand Slams."
Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, will not give up their career objectives any time soon. However, Nadal will face the inevitable questions Federer has fielded since losing in the quarterfinals last year at Wimbledon, his first missed semifinal in 23 straight major tournaments.
Is Nadal slipping? Is he finished? Through?
"Find solutions, that's what I have to try and that's what I'm going to try," Nadal said, as reported by Kamakshi Tandon for ESPN.com. "Seriously, I lose because I am playing against the best players of the moment. My experience says this level is not forever. Even for me, when I was last year winning three Grand Slams, my level of last year was not forever. Probably the level of Novak of today is not forever. I'm going to be here fighting all the time, waiting my moment. I'm going to wait and try a sixth. And if the sixth doesn't happen, to the seventh. It's going to be like this. That's the spirit of the sport."
Djokovic flopped onto his back after Nadal's final error. The new champion then rolled over and nibbled on a bit of Centre Court's grass. "The grass tasted quite well really. Well kept."
Djokovic won 1.1 million English Pounds Sterling today, or about $2 million US dollars. He won it in front of 15,000 fans on Centre Court, in front of his entire team of support including his parents and one brother. And he won it in front of the president of Serbia, Boris Tadic.
Somehow Novak's brilliant tennis this year gets back to his country, Serbia, the site of his coming-of-age victory.


Earlier Columns from this Event:
July 2, 2011 Wimbledon: Powerful Petra Wins Wimbledon
July 1, 2011 Wimbledon: Djokovic and Nadal into Finals
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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