Wimbledon ended as we all expected, with
Novak Djokovic confirmed as the new master of the men's game after beating Rafael
Nadal in four sets.
With his second Grand Slam title of the
season and the third of his career, the Serbian will go for a 'Little Slam' at
the US Open later this season - as his victim on Sunday did last year. In one
year things have changed a great deal.
On Sunday we witnessed the outrageous
domination of Djokovic on Centre Court, with the exception of the third set when
his focus went down a little, hardly a surprise. Then in the fourth set, where
he wasn't playing as well as he had in the first two, he showed he was above
his opponent in all the areas of the game. What was obvious was Nadal's lack of
answers to the game of the player who officially becomes world No.1 on Monday. Ever
since the start of the season, the Spaniard has run out of time in rallies
against Djokovic because the Serb succeeds in keeping him stuck on one side
with the length and accuracy of his shots. This allows him, for example, to
wrongfoot Nadal a great deal.
Djokovic also knows Nadal by heart and
so can anticipate his defensive runs. A bit like Monica Seles did in the past -
a player he admires a lot - he is marrying this anticipation with taking the
ball early, placing the pressure on his rival's shoulders. Nadal has until now
failed to find a lasting answer to the challenge represented by Djokovic
because the Serbian is always one step ahead of him during points.
Still, there are several things that he
could improve upon after losing his crown, especially his sliced backhand. He
has used this for a long time; in my opinion, it is a tactical mistake. He has
not mastered the shot enough so it leaves time for his opponent to breathe and
find the optimal position. Nadal's great strength has always been to prevent this
by maintaining a high intensity, tiring them out. It is his natural style.
Against Djokovic, the attempt to break up the rhythm fails - and this holds
true for the baseline fights as it does for the return of serve.
Novak used some sliced serves from right
to left because the chop backhand on the return helped him to take the lead and
dictate the point. If he watches the video of this match, Rafa would have to
admit that his position for returning has to be changed, even if it means he'll
be aced more often on the T. If he moves a little more to the right - let's say
50cm - he will be able to really hit his backhand and won't be late for the
start of the point.
It is the same in the other diagonal,
where he often found himself in trouble due to Djokovic serving to his body on
his forehand. This lack of lucidity can of course be explained by the mental
edge taken by the Serbian over Nadal: in 2011, Nole has taken five victories in
five finals against the Spaniard.
Neutralisation is the key word of Djokovic's
game. I've already talked about the length of his shots and his eye as weapons to
explain his domination; he has added perfect footwork and position to this which
allows him to reach all areas of the court and play with the speed of his shots.
In some ways, the letdown in the third set emphasises this: with the stress of seeing
victory at close hand, he was not as well-placed on the ball as he was at the
start of the match so his hand became slower. His efficiency regarding the action
of the head of the racquet depends on this placement. In the manner of a
champion, Nadal was able to seize his opportunities to try to turn the match
However it is now obvious that he cannot
wait for Novak to lose focus and start missing. He must find tactical answers in
the coming weeks and take the appropriate decisions - especially as the American
hard courts should totally suit his number one rival's game.