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Djokovic defeats Nadal, earns his first Wimbledon title

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The nation of Serbia has a somber history as far as political, religious, and economic turmoil, and all the hardships associated with decades of war.

            But for one native Serbian and his homeland on Sunday, there was cause for celebration to some degree, and as America celebrated their independence half a world away, this Serbian reserved his fireworks for Center Court at Wimbledon, as two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal was left standing in the haze when it was all said and done.

            Indeed it was a huge weekend for Novak Djokovic, as he defeated ten-time major champion Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon men’s final (6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3), for his first Wimbledon championship, and his third major championship overall.

            If this year’s Wimbledon final wasn’t symbolic of a changing of the guard in men’s professional tennis, there’s never been such a thing.

            Not only did Djokovic win the most prestigious title in pro tennis, but he’s now also ranked #1 in the world, relegating 18-time major champion Roger Federer to #3, although it seems that Federer has dropped down even further: He lost in the quarterfinals for the second year in a row, as age seems to be catching up with the 29 year-old, arguably the #1 player in tennis history.

            Clearly the 2011 Wimbledon finalists (Nadal is ranked #2) are separating themselves from the pack: The players currently ranked 3-10 are a mixed bag as far as talent and potential, including names such as Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic and Mardy Fish of the U.S., and fellow American Andy Roddick, who rounds out the top 10 at #10.

            It is difficult not to experience some measure of sympathy for Roddick, a former U.S. Open champion, whose rise to stardom unluckily coincided with both Federer and Nadal’s conquest of greatness, and now there’s a third roadblock standing in Roddick’s way in Djokovic, and he appears to be here to stay.

            To be perfectly honest, although Djokovic had already won two Australian Open titles before the Wimbledon final, his game was still somewhat short in the tangible on-court weapons department.

            But the Wimbledon final was different: No longer were consistency and a shortage of unforced errors (he committed only 12 today to Nadal’s 15) his major assets— those had always been his strong suits.

            Djokovic was a serving machine at Wimbledon with a blistering 73% accuracy rate on first serves in the final and 7 aces, and frankly he was the fastest player in London these past two weeks, much the same as Nadal and old-school speedsters such as retired French Open champion Michael Chang: There was simply no tennis ball Djokovic could not track down and send back with authority on the Wimbledon grass.

            Perhaps more impressive is that Djokovic was hardly intimidated by the most physically dominant player in the game, Rafael Nadal.

            People often play defensive tennis when confronted with Nadal and his inhuman array of backspins, topspins, sidespins, and the brute force by which he applies them.

            Not Djokovic: In fact, he refused to lag behind the baseline and instead stepped inside of it Andre Agassi-style to attack balls early, and use Nadal’s own pace to his advantage.

            Djokovic, accordingly, was also a returning machine, hitting 27 winners to Nadal’s 21, as shades of Agassi’s potent return could be seen by way of painting the lines left, right, and center all day long.

            And although it is somewhat premature to proclaim the on-fire Djokovic, now 49-1 in his last 50 matches, the undisputed king of professional tennis, he appears to be cut from the same cloth as many great past Wimbledon champions, while various others still playing may be slowly fading into the background.

            It’s been 12 years since someone with a name other than Federer or Nadal has won two majors in the same year, until this year’s Wimbledon final, that is.

            That’s a telling stat, and Djokovic himself characterized his achievement best: “This is the best day of my life.”

            And it was a pretty good day for Serbia, too, in light of their past and their present hardships.





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