Nadal to Defend Wimbledon Title Against New No. 1 Djokovic

Spanish Player Rafael Nadal
Spanish player Rafael Nadal returns a shot to British player Andy Murray during the men's single semi final at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Photographer: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal defeated Britain’s Andy Murray yesterday to reach the final at Wimbledon and will defend his championship against Novak Djokovic, who’s taking over the top spot in men’s tennis from the Spaniard win or lose.

The 25-year-old Nadal won 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4. The six-time French Open champion lost the No. 1 spot on the ATP World Tour for the first time in more than a year when Djokovic defeated France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first semifinal held yesterday.

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. The loss ends the 24-year-old Murray’s attempt to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.

“It’s a dream to be back in the final,” Nadal said in a televised courtside interview after the match. “I’m happy for everything. I played very well. To win against Andy, I have to play at my best.”

Djokovic will move up one spot when the rankings are published after Wimbledon. Nadal had reclaimed the No. 1 ranking from Federer after winning last year’s French Open. The Serb has beaten Nadal in the finals of Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Rome already this year.

Four Losses

“He’s tough, difficult to play,” Nadal said about Djokovic. “He’s only lost one match this year, and I’ve lost four matches against him this year.”

Murray took the first set by breaking Nadal, who hit a backhand into the net on the second of three set points. The Briton had six aces in the set to Nadal’s one.

Murray was up 30-0 in the fourth game of the second set, only to have Nadal come back to hold serve to make it 2-2. The Spaniard broke in the next game, and then again to go up 5-2. He won the set with no unforced errors to Murray’s 12.

Nadal got 76 percent of his first serves in during the third set, and won 88 percent of those points. Murray got just 48 percent of his first serves in.

Nadal broke Murray in the opening game of the fourth set. At 2-1 down, Murray got two break points but couldn’t overcome the Spaniard. Down 5-3, Murray saved a match point with an ace, leaving Nadal to serve for the match.

Match Point

Nadal got three match points, and Murray came to the net to get back one of them. Nadal took the next point with a forehand winner for the championship berth.

“I’m disappointed,” Murray said in a news conference after he was beaten by Nadal at the same stage for the second year in a row. “The last couple years I’ve recovered relatively quickly from losing because I’m just trying to get better. I feel like I’m playing better tennis than I was last year at this point. I don’t know. It’s difficult.”

Nadal is trying to match Bjorn Borg’s record of winning the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year three times. Borg, who watched from the royal box, did it in 1978, 1979 and 1980.

Nadal, also the reigning U.S. Open champion, started the season with a shot at becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time. Instead, he left the Australian Open in tears after rupturing a thigh muscle in a quarterfinal loss to Spain’s David Ferrer.

Murray has now lost 12 of the 16 times he’s played Nadal. He was the first British man to reach three consecutive semifinals at the All England Club.

Djokovic Wins

Djokovic beat Tsonga, the No. 12 seed from France, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-7 (9-11), 6-2 on Centre Court to reach his first Wimbledon final. He’s only lost once this season, to Federer in the semifinals of the French Open.

“This is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had on the tennis court,” Djokovic said in a televised interview. He kissed the grass on Centre Court after hugging Tsonga at the net. “I’ve been dreaming of playing in the Wimbledon finals since I started playing tennis, when I was four.”

Their 3-hour, 7-minute match produced almost twice as many winners as errors and was marked by at least two points that ended with both players sprawled on the grass after exchanging groundstrokes and diving volleys. Tsonga saved two match points in the third-set tiebreaker.

Djokovic started the season with his second championship at the Australian Open, beating Murray in straight sets in the final. He went on to win six more tournaments.

After the French Open, Djokovic pulled out of a grass-court warmup event at Queen’s Club in London because of fatigue. Until Paris, Djokovic had been on a 43-match win streak since December, when he won the Davis Cup for Serbia at home in Belgrade. That victory had boosted his confidence this season, he’s frequently told reporters. He also changed his diet and worked on his fitness.

Tsonga, 26, ended Federer’s attempt to win his record-tying seventh title at the All England Club in the quarterfinals, coming back from two sets down to advance to his first Wimbledon semifinal. Tsonga, who lost to Djokovic in the final of the 2008 Australian Open, was seeking to become the first Frenchman since Yvon Petra in 1946 to win Wimbledon.

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