Rafael Nadal cemented his status as the best player in the world with a 6-3 7-5 6-4 demolition of surprise Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych on Centre Court this afternoon.
The Spaniard took two hours and 13 minutes to win his eighth grand slam title, securing back-to-back major victories in Paris and London for the second time.
The first time he completed the feat, in 2008, it took five epic sets to beat Roger Federer, but it was a different story today as Berdych could not find the form that had seen him beat Federer and Novak Djokovic in previous rounds.
Nadal was at his supreme best in the first set, putting the 12th-seeded Czech emphatically in his place, and, although the next two sets were closer, the winner was never in doubt.
Nadal was thrilled to reclaim the Wimbledon crown after the knee injury problems last year which denied him the chance to defend the title.
He said: “To have this trophy in my hands is more than a dream for me. Playing my fourth final was amazing after a difficult year last year.”
Referring to his absence 12 months ago, he said: “It was probably one of the toughest moments in my career. I’m lucky, I have a great team around me who support me.”
Berdych paid tribute to his opponent, who has now won 14 straight matches at the All England Club, and vowed to be back after finally living up to his potential.
The Czech said: “It was a great two weeks for me but he was really strong today. He has showed in the last few months that he is really the champion and he deserves to win today.
“It gives me a lot of confidence and power to be stronger for next time and who knows what’s going to happen for the next years.”
Berdych has been tipped as a star of the future since his victory over Federer at the Athens Olympics in 2004, but it has not been until the last couple of months that he has really threatened at grand slam level, firstly by reaching the semi-finals of the French Open.
The Czech once beat Nadal three times in a row but that was four years ago and coming into today’s match the world number one had won all six of their subsequent meetings, including a straight-sets triumph in the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2007.
Berdych coasted through his first three service games but he came unstuck in the fourth.
His big first serve dried up and Nadal needed no second invitation, setting up three break points with a trademark forehand and then taking his second opportunity as a crunching backhand return left Berdych helpless.
Nadal had stepped up a level from his semi-final win over Andy Murray, particularly on serve, and he stamped his authority on proceedings in emphatic fashion by breaking again to take the set.
Berdych had barely had a sniff on the Nadal serve but that changed in the opening game of the second set. The Spaniard played several uncharacteristic loose shots, including two double faults, to give his opponent three break points.
However the 12th seed could not get a hold on any of his returns and Nadal eventually came through to make it five games in a row.
The French Open champion’s level had definitely dropped but Berdych was unable to find the big shots when he needed them, and both players seemed to be struggling with the swirling wind.
The underdog was at least serving much better, as he had to if he wanted to even test Nadal, but it was not enough to save him when he served to stay in the set for a second time.
Berdych just could not find the power or the accuracy to put away a succession of chipped returns and a wide forehand gave Nadal a break to love, the second set, and surely the title.
It became clear that three great Wimbledon men’s singles finals were, perhaps unsurprisingly, not going to be followed by a fourth, although there was no doubt about the greatness of the champion elect.
Berdych was not giving up, and forced his fourth break point of the match in the third game of the third set. But again he was thwarted, netting a backhand after a rare slice rally.
Nadal had hit fewer winners, made more unforced errors, served fewer aces and more double faults than his opponent, yet his dominance was obvious to all of the packed Centre Court crowd.
And when Berdych served to stay in the match for the first time there was an inevitability about the result.
The Czech battled back from 0-30 but when he fired a forehand well long at deuce it gave Nadal a first match point. And one was all he needed, the world number one placing a forehand pass just inside the line before dropping to the turf in celebration.