Top dog Djokovic living the dream

LONDON, (Reuters) – Twelve years after leaving home  with a racket bag full of dreams Novak Djokovic saw two of them  come true in three remarkable days at Wimbledon, culminating in  an emphatic victory over Rafa Nadal in the men’s singles final yesterday.

The 24-year-old Serb, who has become almost unbeatable this  year, outclassed defending champion Nadal 6-4 6-1 1-6 6-3 to win  the grand slam he regards as the ultimate prize in the sport.

Apart from a brief dip in the third set it was a performance  that should remove any doubts about the merit of his newly  acquired world No.1 status, a position he had already guaranteed  by beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semi-finals.

When a crestfallen Nadal blazed a backhand long after two  hours 28 minutes, Djokovic fell to the famous Centre Court lawn  and after consoling his opponent he bent down, plucked some  grass from the court and put it in his mouth.

His racket-smashing antics in an earlier round against  Marcos Baghdatis attracted disapproving glances but no one was  begrudging him a little nibble after a dazzling performance he  described as his best ever on grass.

“I managed to achieve a lifetime goal and I managed to make  my dream come true, all in three days,” Djokovic, who was  embraced by his country’s president Boris Tadic and cheered by  dozens of chanting Serbian fans, told reporters.

“It’s just an incredible feeling that I’m never going to  forget. This is the best day of my tennis career,” added  Djokovic, who has come a long way since his parents enrolled him  at the Nici Pilic Academy in Munich as a 12-year-old.

Novak Djokovic kisses the Wimbledon trophy after he defeated Rafael Nadal in yesterday’s final. (Reuters photo)

“It’s really beautiful,” Djokovic said. “This success kind  of makes you rewind the old days, makes you come back to your  childhood and remember what you’ve been through to get to this  stage.”

Nadal, who had won 10 of his previous 12 grand slam finals,  including Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010, was never allowed to  dominate the baseline exchanges as he did against Andy Murray in  the semi-finals.

For the time being, at least, the 25-year-old seems  powerless to resist Djokovic. He had lost four consecutive  finals to the Serb this year, but defeat at Wimbledon will hurt  most.

“I started the match without thinking about that,” Nadal  told reporters when asked if Djokovic now had a hold on him.
“But that’s true. When you arrive to 5-4, these moments  probably affect you a little bit.

“He played very, very, very high level for moments, and I  played a little bit lower than the previous days.”
Nadal had not lost at the grasscourt grand slam since the  2007 final against Federer, a 20-match streak, but was  second-best for long periods against Djokovic who forged into a  two-set lead in little over an hour.

Yet despite winning 47 of his 48 matches this year and his  recent domination of Nadal, Djokovic began as underdog having  never got the better of the Spaniard in a grand slam match.

SCORCHING
FOREHANDS

Nadal began as he finished against Murray, scorching two  forehands past Djokovic to threaten an immediate break of serve.
A composed Djokovic, though, took a deep breath and repelled  Nadal’s early fury to get on the scoreboard first and the match  settled into a high-tempo rhythm with neither player showing any  weakness on serve.

The doubts that were nagging in Nadal’s head surfaced in the  10th game when, at 30-30, he hooked a forehand into the net and  followed that with another loose stroke into the tramlines to  hand Djokovic the opening set.

With his confidence soaring Djokovic pounced early in the  second to gain a break.
Showing the kind of court coverage and accuracy that has  become such a big part of his armoury he reached a Nadal drop  shot and flicked the ball behind the net-rushing Spaniard,  greeting the winner with a huge Serbian roar.

Two pinpoint aces made it five games in a row and a complete  stranglehold of a final that was rapidly slipping away from a  becalmed Nadal.
In the sixth game Djokovic produced a stunning drop shot,  then a topspin lob and a wrong-footing forehand to earn another  break on the way to taking the set in 33 minutes.

With the final in danger of becoming a rout the crowd’s  support swung to Nadal and the fighback they wanted began almost  immediately when the Spaniard seized on a few Djokovic errors to  race through the third set.

Not since Henri Cochet in 1927 had anyone come back from a  two-set deficit to win the title but Nadal’s notorious fighting  qualities suggested it could be about to happen.

Djokovic, though, was not about to let his dream die.
“I relaxed a little bit too much in the start of the third  set,” Djokovic said. “But in the fourth set I was in the lead  all the time. The first game was very important to hold the  serve. After that, was really great tennis.”

Even when Nadal got a huge slice of luck to break back in  the third game of the fourth set with a backhand that dribbled  off the netcord and died on Djokovic’s side, the Serb remained  steadfast, his self-belief unshaken.

Djokovic continued to match Nadal from the baseline and he  broke the Spaniard’s serve again in the eighth game before  clinching victory on his first match point.

The Czech Republic later celebrated a hat-trick of Wimbledon  triumphs when Iveta Benesova teamed up with Austrian Juergen  Melzer to capture the mixed doubles title with a 6-3 6-2 win  over Mahesh Bhupathi and Elena Vesnina.

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