Tennis: Finals fall flat after a vintage fortnight

THIS Wimbledon was from a rare vintage – record-breaking matches and shock defeats all illuminated by cloudless blue skies and not a drop of rain.

But just you when you thought you'd be drinking in this fortnight for months ahead, along come two disappointing finals to leave a far from fruity after-taste.

You can't have everything but it's just a shame a memorable tournament perhaps saved the worst till last.

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Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams won't care about that and rightly so. Both were ruthless in the manner they brushed aside lower-ranked opponents, whose moment in the sun came earlier in the tournament.

Champions might profess undying love for the fans in the moment of victory but they'd much rather win in straights sets and be back in the locker room without breaking a sweat.

Against Andy Murray in the semi-finals, Nadal was at his fist-pumping best – but Tomas Berdych, making his Grand Slam final debut after claiming the scalps of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, simply wasn't at the level required to bring out the Spaniard's best.

He secured his victory in two hours and 12 minutes – with a brilliant dissecting crosscourt forehand – in what, ironically, was the easiest victory of his fortnight. Nadal, who missed his title defence 12 months ago, is now unbeaten at the All England Club since 2007 and has lost just once in 32 matches.

Former Wimbledon champions Bjorn Borg, Ashley Cooper, Neale Fraser, Jan Kodes and Budge Patty were in the Royal Box on Centre Court to see him reclaim his crown.

Nadal – who had won 14 sets in a row against his Czech opponent before the final – took advantage of his rival's very obvious nervousness on the biggest stage he has ever graced. Berdych's success is built on his big serving game and powerful groundstrokes but he struggled with his percentages during the opener, Nadal seizing the lead in just 34 minutes.

Nadal saved a break point early in the second set and then continued his domination with a succession of thumping forehands to double his advantage, knowing that only once in his career has he lost from two sets up – and that was five years ago against Roger Federer.

Written off by that statistic and all but his biggest fans, Berdych briefly rallied in the third set, playing with the freedom and lack of fear he displayed in his previous encounters.

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"Every Grand Slam is special, it's hard to say which victory means the most," said Nadal.

"After a difficult year and missing last year's defence, it feels amazing to finish with the trophy again.

"Watching on television last year was one of the toughest moments of my career. It was so difficult, so this means so much.

"I expect to play my best in every point and fight for every point like it is my last.

"If you want to play well, you have to find a way and I did that.

"I was more nervous than usual but if you are not nervous in the final then you are not human."

In securing his eighth Grand Slam, Nadal went level with five other greats – Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Fred Perry and Ken Rosewall.

He also underlined his mastery on all surfaces by completing his second French Open-Wimbledon back-to-back double, winning both finals in three sets.

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The US Open – where he has never been beyond the semi-finals – is next up and Nadal has a point to prove, although not before some deserved R and R.

"Right now I'm not thinking about the US Open, that time will come, it's just good to win Wimbledon," added Nadal.

"This has been an amazing season after all my injury problems and I want to enjoy it.

"The US Open will always be one of my goals for the rest of my career but right now my only goal is to enjoy the beach and go fishing.

"It's the more difficult tournament for me but I will focus on preparing the best than I can. I've been to two semi-finals, so I'm not far off.

"But every day I get up with the ambition of working hard and improving and that is a very important tournament that I want to win."

Berdych's pain will be eased slightly by news he will now move into the world's top ten – while a 500,000 runners-up cheque won't harm either.

Of course, money isn't his motivation and he will now look to continue his recent form at next month's US Open after being beaten in the French Open semi-final before arriving in Wimbledon.

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"It's been a great two weeks for me but Rafa was so strong and he has shown in the last few months what a champion he is – he totally deserved to win," admitted Berdych.

"I'm disappointed that I didn't put up more of a challenge but in time I will look back on the last month, what happened here and in Paris, and be proud. It has given me lots of confidence for next time and who knows what can happen."

• For the latest Wimbledon 2010 news, interviews and features, direct from the All England Club, visit:

Williams overtakes King but insists records aren't important

THE statistics were overwhelming. Seven matches played, no sets dropped, 89 aces, with first serve percentage in the nineties and a top speed of 122mph.

This was a fourth Wimbledon title and a 13th Grand Slam – moving her ahead of mentor Billie Jean King to sixth on the all-time list.

It's little surprise that Serena Williams is the world No.1 – although she insists her life will not be defined by such impressive figures.

"It's nice to be mentioned in the same way as people like Billy Jean, Martina Navratilova or Chris Evert," she said, after her 6-3, 6-2 win over Vera Zvonareva. "But that's what I think about. It's not about Serena Williams won X amount of Grand Slams.

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"I know Martina and I guess five other people are ahead of me. I didn't even know I was six on the list or seven or whatever.

"I'm happy to win 13 but you never know what tomorrow brings. I'm happy to have got this far. It just takes a dream and a little effort."

Since the turn of the Millennium, Serena and her sister Venus have shared between them nine of the 11 titles and played in ten of the finals – a record of dominance set to continue for a few years yet. Last year, when asked about the rise of Russian and eastern European players, Serena joked she was thinking of changing her name to Williamsova.

Thankfully, at least at Wimbledon, quality still does rule over quantity.

This was only her fifth competition of the year and she dominated from start to finish, underlining that other old sporting truth about peaking when it matters.

Serena should make no apology for her desire to have more than one interest in her life, although it makes you feel for those slugging away for 40 or more weeks on the WTA Tour, an unremitting whirl of flights, hotels, tournament and practice. "I'm still very interested in doing different things," said Williams.

"I've never really cared what people said, that I should be playing more tennis and hitting more balls."

But Williams insists she has no intention of quitting yet, especially with the Olympics – the only major singles event missing from her CV – taking place at Wimbledon in 2012.

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But don't expect the 28-year old to follow Martina Navratilova – five titles ahead of her in the all-time standings – and still be playing at the All England Club at 39.

"If I am, I want you to personally take me off and escort me off the court," she said.