Mean machine is back, and hungry for a lot more

Injury-free Nadal eyes US Open title
Last Updated 05 July 2010, 16:15 IST

Berdych stepped on Centre Court armed with a sledgehammer forehand that had so sensationally flattened Roger Federer in the quarterfinals but when he faced-off with Nadal on Sunday, his chief weapon looked like a poor imitation of the real thing.

"Weak parts of him? Not many of them," shrugged Berdych after he was beaten 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in the most lopsided men's final at the All England Club for five years. "His biggest weapon is his left hand. It's really tough to find the right rhythm."

For the past three months, almost no one has been able to find the "right rhythm" or a way to nullify the 24-year-old's forehand as the Spaniard has trampled on all those before him to win 31 of his last 32 matches.  Last June, one medical expert predicted Nadal was a spent force as he "had knees of a 33-year-old".

If anything, after being denied a chance to defend his Wimbledon title 12 months ago because of tendinitis to both knees, Nadal made sure his naysayers were left red-faced. "To be back in my favourite tournament of the world here and play well another time, and not only play well, but to finish with the trophy is amazing for me," a beaming Nadal said after achieving the French Open/Wimbledon double for the second time in three years.

The knees which could not last the distance for seven five-set matches just 12 months ago are now once again in rude health, allowing Nadal to zip around the court like a cheetah as he chased after impossible winners.

Nowhere was that more evident than in the final game on Sunday. At 0-15 down, Berdych sent the Spaniard flying around the court only to see Nadal run past the net post and curl in a jaw-dropping forehand passing shot that landed in the corner.  How did he do that, wondered the cheering fans as they leapt to their feet.

"I expect to play my best in every point and try to fight every point like the last," answered the world number one, whose white shirt was covered in dirt after he collapsed on to his back in triumph.

"If you want to play well, you're gonna find a way."

That may be easier said than done for most players but Nadal is no normal champion. He is an unstoppable force that simply does not understand the meaning of defeat.  At 24, he has eight Grand Slam titles won on three different surfaces -- French Open (five), Wimbledon (two) and Australian Open (one).

At the same age, Federer had won only six of his 16 Grand Slam titles. Hence just when people were thinking the Swiss maestro's record haul may stand the test of time, in the space of four weeks Nadal has shown he could throw a spanner in the works.

With the US Open the only Major missing from his impressive resume, the Mallorcan dearly wants to complete his collection -- but not before he takes a well deserved break. "The US Open is gonna be one of my goals for the rest of my career. But right now (my goal) is (to) enjoy the beach, fishing, golf, friends, party and Mallorca," Nadal said before heading to the airport.

(Published 05 July 2010, 16:15 IST)

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