It is always hard for the Wimbledon enthusiast to return to reality after a fortnight of non-stop tennis. But Monday morning won’t seem quite such a letdown after this finals weekend.
This is nobody’s fault. Rafael Nadal of Spain was simply too good for his unexpected opponent, Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, in the men’s final on Sunday, and he barely got out of second gear all afternoon.
Late in each of the sets, he roused himself, decided to break Berdych’s serve and duly did so: 6-3 7-5 6-4, thank you very much.
Only three of the 31 games went to deuce and, on a day of swirling wind, Nadal was some way off perfection, but that was never actually necessary. This was a much simpler test than the one Andy Murray gave him on Friday. The most exciting moment came when Nadal did his version of a World Cup-style victory dance: a forward roll of the sort beloved by old-fashioned PE teachers.
This followed a predictably one-sided victory for Serena Williams in the women’s singles on Saturday. But it also came after blazing five-setters in each of the three previous men’s finals: Nadal’s near-miss against Roger Federer in 2007; his vengeance in 2008; and, with Nadal absent, injured, Federer’s epic win over Andy Roddick last year. Three stonkers then a stinker: it’s not a bad ratio.
However, with 28-year-old Federer suddenly fallible, Nadal, at 24, may now become as dominant on grass courts as he has long been on clay. Serena can at least be tested by her sister Venus; her male equivalent may have to hunt a challenger from Mars.
Berdych won his place in the final the hard way, beating both Federer and the No 3 seed, Novak Djokovic. But you could see the future in his deep blue eyes before they even came on court for this match. The TV camera showed Nadal striding through the corridors like a heavyweight champ, whopping imaginary forehand winners as he went; the challenger marched as if to the gallows. He was duly executed.
A harsh critic might complain that Berdych had no strategy for victory. But it is hard to imagine what strategy he could have had, short of stamping on his opponent’s foot at a changeover. There was this nice young man, beautifully turned out in approved tennis-club attire; and opposite him was this demon in a pirate’s bandanna, moving like a gazelle and lashing forehands like howitzers. For all his fierce looks, though, Nadal is a gent who has not uttered an ungracious word all tournament.
And it has been a classic Wimbledon, which grabbed attention away from the World Cup (perhaps even in Spain) from the moment Federer was almost unhorsed by a no-hoper on the first afternoon, right through Murray’s home-team run to the semi-final on a succession of golden summer days. The second championship played since the construction of the Centre Court roof was untroubled by rain: the roof may soon rust from disuse. One is reminded of the old Yiddish moan: “If I made shrouds, people would stop dying.”
But tennis derives its character from what’s underfoot, not overhead. The last Grand Slam of 2010 is the hard-court US Open, starting next month, which Murray enjoys and Nadal does not. It is not inconceivable that Murray’s moment is at hand.