It wasn't the supreme Rafael Nadal on display today who stopped Brit Andy Murray in the Wimbledon semifinals. But the World No. 1's game was good enough to earn his second championship at the All England Club and eighth major title.
The Mallorcan Matador showed some cracks in his usually stalwart game during his 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 win over Tomas Berdych including some uncharacteristic errors on his fave forehand side. He offered up 4 break point chances on his serve in the match but the Czech was never able to convert on any of these opportunities, particularly in the opening game of the second set when he missed three chances to take the lead. And, in typical fashion, Rafa played the scoreline well, amping up his aggression in the key moments of each game, each set to take the advantage.
Unfortunately, Big Berd never found a good rhythm on his massive serve and struggled to get first deliveries in the box throughout ending the match with a 59% on first serves. Rafa made him pay for this lapse, running the 6' 5" baller to all parts of the court and causing him to hit shots out of his comfort zone. The second seed ended the match on a forehand passing shot and dropped to the dirt to celebrate the win. Oh, and he treated the crowd to a low-impact somersault topped off with a double fist pump for dessert. Yums.
"This year, I came back and to have the trophy in my hand is more than I can dream," Rafa told the crowd on Centre Court afterward. "[It] was probably one of the toughest moments in my career. Winning here was always my dream. I did it two years ago, did it again this year. Unbelievable."
With his eighth major title he ties Fred Perry, Ken Rosewall, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Andre Agassi on the all-time list and is one of only four ballers in history to win eight majors before the age of 25, the others being Roger Federer, Pete Sampras and Bjorn Borg. Pretty spectacular company, eh? Plus he's now twice earned one of the toughest achievements in tennis: the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double.
As for Big Berd he did well in his first major final appearance. He got off the mark nicely but his game seemed to be missing the same intensity he'd shown in defeating Fed and Novak Djokovic. His movement wasn't as fluid, either, forcing him to hit off-balance at times and his biggest weapons - serve, forehand - apparently went on walkabout. But he made a real breakthrough this fortnight and as an all-court baller he'll surely make a big impact on the North American hard-court swing leading up to the final Slam of the year, the U.S. Open.
Check out more images from Rafa's Wimby win below!
[Photo(s): Getty Images]