THE CHAMPIONSHIPS 2011
Nadal Dashes British Hopes Again, Aims For Third Wimbledon Title
by James Buddell|
Top seed Rafael Nadal dashed British hopes for a second year running by beating fourth seed Andy Murray 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 on Friday evening to keep alive his bid for a third title at The Championships. Victory extended the Spaniard's winning streak to 20 matches at the All England Club.
"Always Wimbledon was my dream," said Nadal. "I never thought that I would be able to play five finals, so today is a very important victory for me and I am very happy for everything."
Nadal, who has lost his World No. 1 ranking as a result of Novak Djokovic reaching the Wimbledon final, will attempt to win his 11th Grand Slam championship in Sunday's final. Nadal has a 16-11 record against Djokovic, but he has lost all four of his meetings against the Serbian this year. Second seed Djokovic beat No. 12 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga earlier in the day. Read Match Report
"Today I lost the No. 1. One guy played unbelievable the first half of the year so he's the new No. 1,", said Nadal. "We just can congratulate him because what he did this first part of the season is something really impressive, really fantastic. I am happy about how I did. I think in normal conditions I would be No. 1 or have a lot of chances to keep being the No. 1, because my results are really good the first part of the season, too. But one guy did unbelievable, and congratulations."
The 25-year-old Nadal is bidding to join Sweden's Bjorn Borg as the only two players in the Open Era (since 1968) to win the Roland Garros-Wimbledon title-double three times.
For the third year running Aorangi Terrace, popularly known as 'Henman Hill', was closed as thousands of fans - without Centre Court tickets - converged on the grassy knoll to potentially witness British sporting history. The first set lived up to the hype, going with serve to 5-6, when Nadal made uncharacteristic unforced errors to find himself at 0/40. He saved one break point, but hit a slice into the net to give Murray the 54-minute opener. Both players had won 84 per cent of their points on first delivery, but Murray's aggression on return of serve and forehand potency ensured he finished the set having hit 14 winners.
Murray's momentum ended, however, at 1-2,15/30, when he missed a short forehand that he should have hit for a winner. It was a big opportunity to potentially seize control of the pair's seventh meeting at a Grand Slam championship. He, and the predominantly British crowd, knew it too. "It was a big point," Murray said afterwards. "I went for it today, and I started to make a few mistakes after that."
Nadal agreed. "In general, I think Andy played very, very high level especially the first set and the beginning of the second, too. Seriously I felt he was better player than me at that moment, so I just waited for my moment.
"That [point] was probably the turning point of the match. After that, the match was close, because I was playing well, too. He lost probably a little bit the intensity of the beginning. I was playing well at the beginning, but probably I improved a little bit the level, and I played probably my best match this year here."
The error proved costly as Nadal bounded around the court to win seven straight games in a row. The top seed took the second set in 36 minutes and then converted his third break point opportunity at the start of the third, when Murray hit a forehand wide.
The Scot stopped the streak for 1-2, but Nadal proved relentless - he wanted to win every game. At 4-2, he manoeuvred Murray to the net before ripping a crosscourt forehand past the fourth seed to seal another break of serve. Minutes later, Nadal took a two-sets-to-one lead with a hold to 30, having won 88 per cent of service points and committing just two unforced errors in the 36-minute set.
Having committed four unforced errors in losing the first set, Nadal battened down the hatches and only made three further errors. He barely gave Murray a chance. The Scot dropped his serve to 30 in the first game of the fourth set and then threw everything at Nadal in a nine-minute fourth game, but he could not convert either of his two break point opportunities. Both times, Nadal mixed up his tactics to keep Murray on the back foot.
Nadal maintained the break advantage. Murray saved one match point with an ace at 3-5, 30/40, but Nadal moved to within one victory of adding to his 2008 (d. Federer) and 2010 (d. Berdych) titles on the sport's most famous court, with a hold to 15 to complete victory in just under three hours. At the age of 25 years and 30 days, Nadal is the second youngest man - after Borg - since 1968 to reach 13 major finals.
Murray, 24, has lost at the semi-final stage at Wimbledon for the third year in a row. The Scot, who won the AEGON Championships three weeks ago, was hoping to become the first British male champion at the All England Club since Fred Perry in 1936. He was contesting his third major semi-final of the season. He dropped to a 27-9 mark, after committing 39 unforced errors.
"[I'm going to] work harder than I ever did before," said Murray on his immediate plans, that includes representing Great Britain in next week's Davis Cup tie versus Luxembourg. "[I'll] try and improve my game and get stronger. Be more professional. It's a very tough era I think in tennis. Tennis right at the top of the game is exceptional. So not only to get level with those guys, but to push past them, you need to work harder than them."