Like the ladies' final between Serena Williams + Vera Zvonareva, the men's final on Sunday will feature a reigning World No. 1 and multiple Grand Slam champ versus a major final virgin when Rafael Nadal faces Tomas Berdych for the Wimbledon men's championship.
The Mallorcan Matador was at his best in the key moments of his 6-4, 7-6 (8), 6-4 defeat of Andy Murray in their semifinal match today. The Brit baller stayed with Rafa for most of the match except in one critical area: break point chances. Rafa was able to convert 3 of 4 opportunities compared to 1 of 3 for Muzz. Moreover, the second seed had tremendous success coming forward making 23 of 26 (88%) net approaches compared to 16 of 28 (57%) for his opponent. Now the Brits will have to wait another year for a chance to bring the crown home. But what's another one when you've been waiting 74 already?
It wouldn't have been surprising to see Tomas Berdych have a letdown after ousting 6-time champ Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. But the Czech pretty boy's game never faltered during his 6-3, 7-6 (11), 6-3 win over Novak Djokovic. He still served big, winning 81% of his first serves and 64% of his second deliveries, and cracked 34 winners compared to 25 for the Serb. The 12th seed played first strike tennis and ran Nole side to side preventing him from controlling the center of the court.
The third seed seemed content to stay at the baseline and rally but fortunes smile upon those who are willing to take risks on the slick stuff. He, like Muzz, needed to have a more aggressive stance in the rallies and their opponents made them pay the price for waiting. And without a kill shot like the explosive forehands of Roger Federer or Rafa that can break open a point with one swing, they're forced to scramble just to win points - not a great recipe for success at Wimbledon.
This meeting is the 11th between Rafa + Berdy with the Spaniard leading the H2H 7-3. Their last meeting on grass was here in 2007 with Rafa winning 7-6(1), 6-4, 6-2.
Here's what the 7-time Grand Slammer said about his opponent in Sunday's final:
Q. What do you think about Tomas Berdych?
RAFAEL NADAL: Amazing. He did amazing tournament. I think he played very good match against Federer; very good match today against Djokovic. He save difficult match against Brands. Yeah, he's the best of his draw, so for that reason he's in the final. No one opponent can be more difficult than Tomas to play this final.
Q. Your feelings about the matchup against Berdych in this particular match on grass, is there a style that you're expecting to see from him or what?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, Tomas is a very aggressive player, very good serve, very good flat shots from the baseline. So gonna be very, very difficult. Very difficult match. Is very difficult to stop him when he's playing well, and he's playing really well. So gonna be very difficult to play against him.
And what did Berdy have to say about getting this far at Wimbledon?
Q. What does it feel like to be in the final?
TOMAS BERDYCH: Well, I mean, right now it's great feeling so far. I'm just trying to be enjoying the victory of today. You know, I think I will try to do the same as I did after Roger. So, you know, today just be thinking about today's match, and since tomorrow, just leave it on side and just get ready for the finals.
I'm still not done yet here. One more to go.
On paper Rafa is, of course, the heavy fave to win his - gasp! - eighth major title at the ripe old age of 24. He's won here before and owns superior experience over his opponent in these situations. However, the Czech is brimming with confidence and playing like he belongs - and he does. He's playing beautifully but well within himself. Moreover, he's been staying calm when challenged and not getting caught up in any past errors.
The first few games of the final will be important and telling of the Czech's state of mind. If Berdy comes out relaxed he could potentially hit Rafa off Centre Court. But if he comes out nervy, the second seed will smell blood and draw the 6' 5" baller into extended rallies - a winning strategy for Rafa. So, make no mistake about it: Berdy will need to be on his 'A' game and serve/return well to have any hope of stopping the Matador on Sunday.
[Photo(s): Getty Images]