THE TRI­UMPH OF RAFAEL

Straight-sets vic­tory over Berdych full of en­ergy, strong strokes

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Howard Fendrich

Nadal wins his sec­ond ti­tle at Wim­ble­don in straight sets over To­mas Berdych

Spain’s Rafael Nadal makes a back­hand re­turn to To­mas Berdych as he wins at Wim­ble­don on Sun­day.

WIM­BLE­DON, Eng­land — Rafael Nadal looked like a guy who ab­so­lutely couldn’t wait to get out there, clutch­ing his racket and hop­ping in place near the en­trance to Cen­tre Court be­fore the Wim­ble­don fi­nal.

He jig­gled his left leg, un­able to sit still on the side­line. He even bopped around dur­ing the pre­match coin toss. When it was fi­nally time to start warm­ing up, he zigzagged to the base­line in a full sprint.

And when it ended, Nadal marked his vic­tory with a cel­e­bra­tory som­er­sault. That end­less en­ergy, and so many su­perb strokes, al­lowed the No. 2-seeded Nadal to out­class No. 12 To­mas Berdych of the Czech Re­pub­lic 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 Sun-

Con­tin­ued from C1 day for his sec­ond Wim­ble­don tro­phy and eighth Grand Slam ti­tle over­all.

A year ago, side­lined by painful knees, 2008 Wim­ble­don cham­pion Nadal was planted on his couch at home in Spain and watched the fi­nal on tele­vi­sion, only the fifth man in the his­tory of a tour­na­ment that dates to 1877 who couldn’t de­fend his cham­pi­onship be­cause of in­jury.

“Now last year is past,” Nadal said. “I know what hap­pened one year ago, and how dif­fi­cult it was for me, how much I had to work to be back at my best level.”

He paused, tap­ping his chest Rafael Nadal lies on the ground af­ter de­feat­ing To­mas Berdych in the men’s sin­gles fi­nal on the Cen­tre Court at Wim­ble­don for his eighth ma­jor ti­tle so far. with his left hand, and added: “That’s some­thing spe­cial for me.”

In 2009, his 31-match French Open win­ning streak ended, he missed Wim­ble­don, went more than eight months with­out a ti­tle any­where, lost the No. 1 rank­ing, and, hard­est of all, dealt with his par­ents’ sep­a­ra­tion.

This year, he is 47-5 with five ti­tles, both tour highs. He won 24 matches in a row in one stretch, re­gained his Roland Gar­ros ti­tle and the No. 1 rank­ing last month, and man­aged the tricky tran­si­tion from clay to grass by win­ning the French Open and Wim­ble­don in the same year for the sec­ond time.

There is no doubt he’s the best player in ten­nis to­day, sur­pass­ing Roger Fed­erer.

“Rafa’s show­ing in the last few months,” Berdych said, “that he’s re­ally the cham­pion.”

Nadal won his 14th match in a row at Wim­ble­don, es­sen­tially, be­cause he saved all four break points he faced and broke the big-serv­ing Berdych four times.

“The biggest dif­fer­ence be­tween us,” Berdych ex­plained, “was that when he got a chance, he just took it.”

Give Nadal the tini­est open­ing, and the left-han­der barges through. It’s no ac­ci­dent he has a sil­hou­ette of a bull’s horns stamped on the back of his left sneaker’s heel (the right one reads, “Rafa”).

Still, Nadal ac­knowl­edged be­ing “a lit­tle bit more ner­vous than usual” be­fore fac- ing Berdych. Asked why, Nadal said sim­ply: “If you are not ner­vous in the fi­nal of Wim­ble­don, you are not hu­man.”

This match was hardly a clas­sic. More like a coro­na­tion — or, at the very least, con­fir­ma­tion that Nadal is el­bow­ing his way into any con­ver­sa­tion about the best play­ers in ten­nis his­tory.

His eight ti­tles at ma­jor tour­na­ments push him past John McEn­roe and tie with quite a heady group that in­cludes An­dre Agassi, Jimmy Con­nors and Ivan Lendl.

“I’m very proud to be along­side those great play­ers,” Nadal said. “My ca­reer is much bet­ter than I could have imag­ined when I be­gan play­ing.”

Anja Niedring­haus

Anja Niedring­haus

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