WIMBLEDON: Novak Djokovic beats Rafael Nadal to Become King. Will Casual Fan Accept end of Nadal-Federer?



Novak Djokovic wins Wimbledon

Novak Djokovic dropped to Wimbledon’s Centre Court in celebration and then. . .ate some blades of grass. “Well-kept,’’ he said. A few months ago, when he won the Australian Open, he started taking off clothes, throwing them into the crowd, then taking off more. Knowing him, he wasn’t sure to stop before it got embarrassing. But he did.

The thing is, Djokovic isn’t just for comic relief anymore. He is the king of tennis after beating Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 Sunday to win Wimbledon.

Djokovic has been crushing everyone, including Nadal and Roger Federer, all year. But you don’t prove that you’re best in Rome or Madrid, Indian Wells or Miami. It happens at Wimbledon (or the U.S. Open). He is now 48-1 this year, winning two of three majors and beating Nadal five times with no losses.

He officially earned the computer No. 1 ranking on Friday, but proved Sunday that he deserved it.

“Couple good days at the office, yeah,’’ he said, not just holding the trophy, but sort of hugging it. “Really, honestly, the big day of my life.’’

What kind of a day is it for tennis? It is a changing-moment. The game had been led by the greatest individual rivalry in sports: Federer and Nadal. That’s what the casual sports fan wanted to see. Tennis has been living on it since Nadal’s classic Wimbledon win over Federer in 2008.

The tennis world already accepts Djokovic and knows he has ruled the game this year. But without Nadal-Federer at the top, will tennis still sell to anyone outside the club?

Well, Nadal still has won four of the past six majors, so it’s not as if he’s gone. Federer is still third-best, and the one player to have beaten Djokovic this year. Maybe tennis can sell a three-way rivalry instead of two? Maybe, but No. 1 has to be the big seller.

In the U.S., anyway, that Nadal-Federer Wimbledon amazingly caught fire as it was happening. Federer had been Mr. Perfect, and seen – to potential U.S. marketers – as a little boring. Nadal came along as a contrast, with long hair, big muscles and yes, pirate pants. Remember? Then they had their classic match.

All along, Djokovic was the Other Guy, comic relief with funny impersonations of other players. The players didn’t have the best sense of humor about that. And he ticked off fans at the U.S. Open, too, after Andy Roddick had accused him of faking injuries and sickness, something Djokovic did regularly. Fans booed Djokovic after he beat Roddick, and he chastised them over the p.a. Advice: Never chastise fans, especially ones from New York.

But Djokovic has made up with New York, even calling John McEnroe out of the TV booth to joke around and hit some balls after a short, unsatisfying match at Ashe Stadium.

Djokovic is always doing something goofy, with one commercial showing him chasing a tennis ball into the stands, stopping to flirt with a woman and trying to impress her. At one point, he lifts his shirt to show nipple tassels swinging in a circle. That is your tennis king now?

Yes, this game can use such a personality at the top. It has had personalities, but none like this. Also, his English is much clearer than Nadal’s, which will help on Wall Street. You rarely see Nadal in an ad in the U.S.

Well, a first Wimbledon title is a personal thing, too, of course, and Djokovic was emotional. He has been saying for two weeks that his boyhood dream was to win Wimbledon. He is from Serbia, and doesn’t like to talk about growing up in a war-torn area, but that’s part of his emotion now, too.

“I think every child has a dream to become something in his life,’’ he said. “We live from those dreams. . .I mean, I started in the mountains, started in a very small place, and then I continued in Belgrade practicing tennis that wasn’t really popular at the times.

“We were going through some really difficult periods. You know, our country had wars and stuff. So it wasn’t easy to hold that desire and really believe in yourself. But I always did, and the people close to me did. So to reach here, it is something really special.’’

Djokovic celebrates by...eating Centre Court

He climbed the final step by fixing his serve and changing his diet after discovering a gluten allergy. That couldn’t be easy for someone who’s parents owned a pizza joint. He has the world’s best return of serve, and amazing speed and flexibility. And somewhere in there, he just learned to believe.

Djokovic dominated rallies in the first set, but Nadal served so well that he kept even. Down 4-5, though, Nadal felt the pressure of having to win his service points. After missing just two first serves up until then, he missed three of four and lost the set.

In the third set, Nadal started mixing up spins and paces, even moving way back on some points, crowding the baseline on others. Djokovic’ game is based on timing, and Nadal was messing it up.

Still, Djokovic was playing too well for Nadal to make any mistakes. And down 3-4 in the fourth, Nadal double-faulted the first point. That was about it.

“My game doesn’t bother him a lot,’’ Nadal said. “I have to find solutions.’’

Djokovic is in Nadal’s head, but Nadal has spent his career finding solutions to Federer, then grass courts, then hard courts. He is the chaser again.

Everyone is. The joker (Djoker?) is now king.

About gregcouch

I can talk tennis all day long, and often do. And yet some of the people I talk to about it might rather I talk about something else. Or with someone else. That’s how it is with tennis, right? Sort of an addiction. Sort of a high. I am a national columnist at FoxSports.com and a FoxSports1 TV insider, and have been a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2010, I was the only American sports writer to cover the full two weeks of all four majors, and also to cover each of the U.S. Masters series events. I’ve seen a lot of tennis, talked with a lot of players, coaches, agents. I watched from a few rows behind the line judge as Serena rolled her foot onto the baseline for the footfault, a good call, at the 2009 U.S. Open. I sat forever watching a John Isner marathon, leaving for Wimbledon village to watch an England World Cup soccer game at a pub and then returning for hours of Isner, sitting a few feet from his wrecked coach. I got to see Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling joke around on a practice court on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, placing a small wager on a tiebreaker. Djokovic won, and Soderling pulled a bill out of his wallet, crumpled it into his fist and threw it at Djokovic, who unwadded it, kissed it, and told me, “My work is done here.’’ And when Rafael Nadal won the French Open in 2010, I finished my column, walked back out onto the court, and filled an empty tic tac container with the red clay. I’m looking at it right now. Well, I don’t always see the game the same way others do. I can be hard on tennis, particularly on the characters in suits running it. Tennis has no less scandal and dirt than any other game. Yet somehow, it seems to be covered up, usually from an incredible web of conflicts of interest. I promise to always tell the truth as I see it. Of course, I would appreciate it if you’d let me know when I’m wrong. I love sports arguments and hope to be in a few of them with you here. Personal info: One-handed backhand, serve-and-volleyer. View all posts by gregcouch

6 responses to “WIMBLEDON: Novak Djokovic beats Rafael Nadal to Become King. Will Casual Fan Accept end of Nadal-Federer?

  • Lou

    Djokovic is now officially the best player in the world.Today by winning it, there is no doubt about it. We might be seeing a start of a new rivalry which can go on to become another FEDAL.

    Quoting one writer who said this on Saturday:Who knows tomorrow history repeats itself and Nole does to Nadal what Nadal did to Federer in 2008 epic final.

    Today Nadal got to taste his own medicine.first time ever, i saw that defeated look in nadal’s eyes.
    Here is the link of the author i was talking about:

  • Maxshade7

    Djoker crushed Nadal. So much for the pressure of being a first time finalist. Hes #1 end of story. Djoker and Nadal will have a great rivalry for years to come. What Im wondering is why you arent questioning Nadals heart or asking if he folded or not? Wheres the non partisan reporting Im used to? Clearly if Djoker didnt fall asleep in the 3rd set it would have been a massacre. If you question the heart of 16x grand slam winner you might as well question the heart of a 10x winner…

  • liz

    Djokovic is had a great season this year and became # 1 but he is not the best player. Talk to me when he has dominated tennis for years and has many majors under his belt. Nadal is still brilliant and will , without a doubt, beat djokovic in the future as he’s done in the past.

  • John JM

    I think Nadal can beat Djokovic again, but it now requires him to play a game that’s not totally natural for him. He can’t just rely on power and spin. He has to mix up pace and shots and throw off Djok’s timing, just as Federer did to beat him in the French semis. So the key, I think, is going to be how well Nadal can execute.

    It reminds me of how Federer was forced to make changes to his game when playing Nadal that maybe don’t feel totally natural, like stepping in more. He knows what to do, but has he been able to do it consistently? No. I wonder if Nadal will have more success against Djok than Fed had with him. He’s 25 now, and I’ve heard it said that the older a player gets, the more fossilized his game becomes. And I’m not sure if Nadal’s core game includes what he now needs to beat Djokovic at his best. It could just be an unfortunate match-up for him, but he did show promise by taking the third set, so there’s hope.

  • lita

    SO Happy with Nole’s win this past Sunday. I KNEW he was going to win. Rafa has been a great champion, but make no mistake about it, Nole is in his head big time! I think that Fed is the GOAT currently, but he’s no longer the BEST player and his fate no longer rests in his own hands as it relates to winning anymore grand slams. I see Nole dominating for a good while. He’s the best in the game, and I’m not seeing Rafa deal with him this year at least. 2012 is a different thing all together though. He’ll definitely have to change his game to deal with Nole, but how long will it take for him to change his game to deal with Nole, and on top of it, his all-out style seems to be affecting his health because he has a history of knee and foot problems and unless he changes his all-out style, he’ll continue to have health issues. The ATP should be a very interesting place the next 2 years.

    Again congrats Nole, You’re #1 and the BEST in the ATP now. Keep it up!!

  • Wimbledon Novak Djokovic | The Tennis Blog | Free Information and Tips - Everything You Need to Know!!!

    […] game becomes. And I’m not sure if Nadal’s core game includes what he now needs to beat Djokovic at his best. It could just be an unfortunate match-up for him, but he did show promise by taking […]

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