Novak Djokovic tastes victory at Wimbledon
Monday, July 4, 2011
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Kneeling on the Centre Court grass a few minutes after becoming the Wimbledon champion for the first time, Novak Djokovic wanted to really taste victory.
Djokovic won his third Grand Slam title by beating defending champion Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 in Sunday's final at the All England Club. Then, savoring his success and basking in the moment, the second-seeded Serb dropped to the ground and pulled out a few blades of grass and ate them.
"I felt like an animal," said Djokovic, who had already guaranteed himself the No. 1 ranking just by reaching the final. "I wanted to see how it tastes. It tastes good."
Djokovic has been on quite a run this year. He started the season by winning 41 straight matches, including the Australian Open title. His 43-match winning streak, dating to last year's Davis Cup final, and perfect season came to end against Roger Federer in the French Open semifinals, but he is now 48-1 in 2011.
"In a sentence, I lost my fear. I believed in my abilities more than ever," said Djokovic, who won his first grass-court title Sunday. "Australia was one of the best tournaments I played in my life."
This year's Wimbledon can't be far behind.
Shortly after beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals to secure the top ranking from Nadal, Djokovic knew he would be up against a man he has dominated this season.
Before this year, Nadal had won 16 of the 23 matches he played against Djokovic in their careers, including all five in major tournaments. But Djokovic beat Nadal in four finals in 2011 heading into Wimbledon, including two on clay.
"I had that in back of my mind," Djokovic said. "I was trying to take myself back to those matches and really perform the same way that I performed those days in those matches: aggressive, taking my chances, not giving him opportunity to take over the control."
Nadal had his own streak to rely on, however. The 10-time Grand Slam champion had won 20 straight matches at the All England Club, including two of the previous three titles. He missed the 2009 tournament because of injury, but was playing in his fifth Wimbledon final in six years.
The latest loss to Djokovic was Nadal's first in a major final to a player other than Federer.
"He's doing great. He's doing a few things fantastic," Nadal said. "But I had to play better to win, and I didn't today. I played little bit less aggressive."
Djokovic's quick movement and precise placement were the keys Sunday as the Serb consistently landed shots while taking advantage of any slight miscues from Nadal. The first and biggest of the first set came in the final game, when Djokovic hit a forehand winner down the line.
Nadal followed that with a pair of unforced errors, and Djokovic won the set on the first break point of the match.
"He played better than me," said Nadal, who has won each Grand Slam tournament at least once in his career. "For that reason, he is the champion here."
Djokovic dominated the second set, breaking Nadal twice while holding serve easily. It wasn't until the second game of the third set that Nadal finally managed to do something with Djokovic's serve, breaking for a 2-0 lead when the Serb dumped a backhand into the net.
Nadal broke again and eventually won the set, and the two traded service breaks early in the fourth. But after Djokovic held to 4-3 in the final set with four straight points, Nadal double-faulted for the first time. He lost the next two points and soon was broken again when he sent a backhand long.
Sitting in the Royal Box along with several former champions was Serbian President Boris Tadic, and when Nadal sent a backhand long on match point, Djokovic turned to face them and dropped to the turf, laying on his back with his arms spread wide.
"I will definitely come for some more Wimbledons, more Grand Slam trophies. I mean, this is what I'm born for," said Djokovic, who tossed several of his rackets into the crowd before accepting the championship trophy. "I want to be a tennis champion. I want to win more Grand Slams."