Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Stephen Wil­son

Wim­ble­don: Top-seeded Rafael Nadal dis­patches Andy Mur­ray, will face To­mas Berdych in fi­nal,

WIM­BLE­DON, Eng­land — Rafael Nadal knows ex­actly where he was, of course, on the first Sun­day of July 2009, the only time in the past five years that the Wim­ble­don men’s fi­nal went on with­out him.

“I watched at home,” Nadal said. “On the sofa.”

Yes, a year ago this time, he was in front of a TV in Spain, rest­ing his aching knees in­stead of wield­ing his racket on Cen­tre Court, only the fifth player in the his­tory of a tour­na­ment that be­gan in 1877 un­able to de­fend his ti­tle be­cause of in­jury.

He’s here now — once again in the Wim­ble­don fi­nal, once again on top of his fore­hand­whip­ping, ev­ery-shot-re­triev­ing, foe-de­mor­al­iz­ing game. The No. 1-ranked Nadal picked apart No. 4 Andy Mur­ray of Bri­tain 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-4 in the semi­fi­nals Fri­day to close in on a sec­ond tro­phy at the All Eng­land Club and eighth Grand Slam cham­pi­onship over­all.

“For sure, that makes (it) more spe­cial,” Nadal said, “be­cause I worked a lot to be back, play­ing my best ten­nis. I did, so that’s very im­por­tant. Per­sonal sat­is­fac­tion, no?”

Nadal’s wait to re­turn to the Wim­ble­don fi­nal lasted 24 months, which prob­a­bly seems like the blink of an eye to lo­cal fans. Their wait for a home­grown cham­pion drags on: A Bri­tish man hasn’t won the ti­tle since Fred Perry in 1936; one hasn’t reached the fi­nal since Henry “Bunny” Austin in 1938.

“I ob­vi­ously want to win for my­self. I want to win for the guys I work with. I want to win for, you know, the U.K.,” said Mur­ray, who also lost in the semi­fi­nals last year and ap­peared on the verge of tears at his news con­fer­ence. “A lit­tle bit more dis­ap­point­ing than other Grand Slams, be­cause this one is, you know, the big­gest one of the year for me.”

Nadal has won his last 13 matches at the grass-court ma­jor, and 25 of 27, with the only losses com­ing against Roger Fed­erer in the 2006 and 2007 fi­nals. Nadal beat Fed­erer in the epic 2008 ti­tle match, which ended at 9-7 in the fifth set as dark­ness de­scended.

On Sun­day, Nadal will take on some­one other than Fed­erer in the Wim­ble­don fi­nal for the first time: 12th-seeded

Jon Su­per

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