Novak Djokovic may have taken the top spot in men’s tennis away from defending Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal. He’s yet to beat the 10-time Grand Slam winner in a major tournament.
Djokovic, who will become the new No. 1 on the ATP World Tour after Wimbledon, will have his chance today when he plays the Spaniard in the finals at the All England Club in London.
Czech Petra Kvitova yesterday won her first Grand Slam title by beating tournament favorite and former champion Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-4 on Centre Court.
Although Djokovic, a two-time Australian Open winner, has gotten the better of Nadal in four finals this season, he hasn't been able to beat the lefthander in a Grand Slam event on five occasions.
“It is quite different playing Nadal in a Grand Slam because it’s a best-of-five,” the Serb said yesterday in a news conference. The men play the majority of their matches on the ATP World Tour in a best-of-three set format.
Nadal beat Djokovic in their only Grand Slam final, at last year’s U.S. Open. He’s twice retired against Nadal in a major, at the 2006 French Open and at 2007 Wimbledon.
“Physically we all know that he’s superior and he’s the strongest player around, the most prepared,” said Djokovic, who has only lost one match this year. “So I’m ready for long rallies and long points. I need to be physically ready, which I am. I feel fit in this moment, and mentally, obviously motivated. It’s my first Wimbledon final.”
Nadal, who defeated Britain’s Andy Murray in the last four, is trying to match Bjorn Borg’s record of winning the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year on three occasions. Borg did it in 1978, 1979 and 1980.
“I have to play aggressive,” Nadal said in a news conference after he beat Murray. “I have to play with intensity, with rhythm.”
The Spaniard said Djokovic may have the edge because he’s beaten him in four finals this season. Twice on hard courts, in Indian Wells and Miami, and twice on Nadal’s favorite clay surface in Madrid and Rome.
“His mental position over me is probably a little bit better because he won the last four finals against me,” Nadal said.
Gambling companies disagree.
“The vast majority of our customers expect Nadal to outlast Djokovic in the Wimbledon final but we expect a marathon,” said Rupert Adams of U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc.
Nadal is the 8-13 favorite to win his eleventh major singles title at William Hill. That means a successful $13 bet would return $8 plus the original wager. Djokovic is at 6-5.
Nadal hasn’t been beaten at Wimbledon since 2007, when he was defeated by six-time champion Roger Federer of Switzerland in the final. He won the title in 2008, and then missed the following year’s tournament because of a knee injury. He won last year’s title by beating Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.
Djokovic said experience of playing on the big stage has made him a better player.
“The last couple years has been a great experience for me playing on the top level,” he said. “I was losing most of the matches against Nadal and Federer in the major events. Now I feel that I can win against those guys in big matches, big events. I matured as a player, and I feel that on the court.”
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