TENNIS: queens club
Rafael Nadal felt he had achieved the “almost impossible” after winning the Artois Championships just seven days after claiming his fourth straight French Open title.
Nadal became the first Spanish male to win a grasscourt title since 1972 by beating Novak Djokovic 7-6 (8/6), 7-5 in two hours and 15 minutes at Queen’s Club on Sunday.
The 22-year-old is the first player to win at Roland Garros and Queen’s in the same year since the tournament changed to its current format in 1979, although Ilie Nastase captured the French Open and London Grass Court Championships in 1973.
“This week has been amazing for me,” said Nadal, keen to get to Heathrow as soon as possible for a flight home to Mallorca.
“This tournament is very very tough and I could not imagine winning before the tournament. I thought it was almost impossible.
“I’ve played a great week to beat Ivo Karlovic, Andy Roddick and Djokovic. I’ve now won titles on every surface so I’m a more complete player than I was a week ago! Today, I think I played my best match at Queen’s. I’m a little bit tired but I think with a few days’ rest I’m going to be ready for Wimbledon. And if not, it does not matter, because Wimbledon is very important and the motivation is 100 per cent.
“I’ve made it two Wimbledon finals so sure, I can win, but it’s a lot of work. It’s easy right now to say you are one of the favourites but we will know on the second Sunday who is the favourite.”
In a battle of this year’s grand slam winners, Nadal and Australian Open champion Djokovic produced some fantastic tennis, with many rallies more suited to a clay court than grass.
Djokovic led 3-0 in the opening set and held one set point at 6-5 in the tie-break, but Nadal took the next three points to win it 8-6 in 74 minutes, the Serbian throwing his racket to the turf in frustration.
Nadal seemed on course to race through the second set when he broke for a 2-0 lead, but Djokovic refused to concede and broke straight back.
The next six games went with serve but only after Djokovic saved two more break points to make it 4-4, Nadal almost producing one of the shots of the year after slipping over and hitting a diving forehand volley from behind the baseline which flew just wide.
Djokovic looked to have made the most of his reprieve, breaking to love in the next game only to then lose his serve straight back while serving for the set at 5-4.
And Nadal made the world No?3 pay the price for such profligacy, holding serve to lead 6-5 and then breaking Djokovic again to secure victory.
“I tried, it was a great match,” said Djokovic, who lost to Nadal in the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year when he was forced to retire through injury.
“It’s been a terrific week. I’ve only been playing on grass for three years so it’s quite an improvement for me to get to the final.
“I had a lot of chances which I didn’t take. It was partly my fault and partly luck as well. I didn’t go for my shots at 5-4 in the second set. I should have been a little more aggressive.
“It was pretty close, a lot closer than on clay against him. It was good to play him once on grass before Wimbledon but I’m not thinking about semi-finals or finals yet (the pair can only meet in the last four or final at Wimbledon).”
*?Roger Federer completed his acclimatisation back to grass by winning the Gerry Weber Open in Halle for the fifth time yesterday.
The world No?1, annihilated by Rafael Nadal on the clay of Roland Garros last weekend, overcame home favourite Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-4.
It was the perfect build-up for Wimbledon for Federer, who has won on the lawns of SW19 every time he has triumphed in Halle.
The Swiss has now won 59 consecutive matches on grass.