Nadal faces Djokovic for Wimbledon title

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after defeating Andy Murray of Britain in their semi-final match...

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after defeating Andy Murray of Britain in their semi-final match at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London July 1, 2011. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

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, Last Updated: 4:45 PM ET

Sunday's marquee men's final at Wimbledon will pit top-seeded reigning champion Rafael Nadal against second- seeded new No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

Nadal, who will officially be supplanted atop the rankings by Djokovic on Monday, got past hobbled heavy British crowd favorite Andy Murray 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4, while a high-flying second-seeded Djokovic secured a berth in his first career Wimbledon finale by defeating 12th-seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-7 (9-11), 6-3 on the famed Centre Court at the venerable All England Club.

Djokovic secured the No. 1 ranking with the victory over Tsonga, as a trip into the final this week guaranteed him the top spot for the first time in his great career. He's the first-ever men's No. 1 from Serbia.

"I've been working all my life for this," Djokovic said. "I've been dreaming about playing the finals of Wimbledon since I started playing tennis when I was 4. To be able to be there on Sunday will probably be the best feeling."

Three of the top-four players in the world -- Nadal, Djokovic and Murray -- were part of the Day-11 schedule.

Murray played great tennis in the first set against Nadal, as he served magnificently and looked like the better player in the 12-game stanza. The Brit set himself up with three set points and converted on the second one when Nadal put a backhand into the net, giving Murray a break of serve in the process.

But at the beginning of the second set, Murray started to show signs of a possible groin injury, and the shot-making machine Nadal, who's been battling a left foot injury this week, started to take it to the world No. 4.

Nadal broke for a 3-2 lead in the second, broke again for a 5-2 advantage, and then held serve to close it out in eight games.

In the third set, Nadal cruised again, as he opened the stanza with a break, broke again for a 5-2 lead, and then held in the eighth game to capture the set in very similar fashion to his second-set victory. Both the second and third sets were each completed in 36 minutes.

The fourth set was also all Nadal, as the Spaniard broke for a 2-0 lead and never looked back.

Murray staved off Nadal's first match point with a big ace and went on to hold his serve to pull within 4-5 in the fourth. The Brit then saved a second match point with a backhand volley winner into an open court, but the Brit couldn't stop Nadal on his third match point, as the gritty Spaniard swatted a huge forehand winner to hold his serve in the final game of the bout.

Nadal prevailed in just under three hours by breaking Murray's serve five times, while the Scot settled for only one break in the setback. Murray ripped 15 aces, but also piled up 32 more unforced errors (39-7) than his Spanish counterpart.

The tenacious Nadal is now a comfortable 12-4 lifetime against Murray, including a semifinal victory at the French Open four weeks ago. The Spanish stalwart also topped the Dunblane, Scotland native in last year's Wimbledon semis, as well as the 2008 quarterfinals at the AEC.

The reigning Wimbledon, French Open and U.S. Open champion Nadal, who has now won his last 20 matches at the All England Club, is also now a flawless 5-0 in his career Wimbledon semifinals. The 10-time Grand Slam champion hasn't lost at Wimbledon since falling to Roger Federer in the 2007 final. The mighty Mallorcan beat Federer in the incredible 2008 finale here, missed the 2009 edition of the world's most prestigious tennis tournament due to injury, and titled again here a year ago by downing Czech Tomas Berdych in the title match.

Murray, who was January's Aussie Open runner-up to Djokovic, appeared in his third straight Wimbledon semifinal and is still seeking his first-ever trip into the championship round at the All England Club.

The 24-year-old Brit had been a perfect 9-0 on grass this season before running into the human buzzsaw that is Nadal. Murray titled at the Wimbledon tuneup at London's Queen's Club last month.

The three-time Grand Slam runner-up Murray, who's now 3-4 in his career major semis, was trying to give Britain its first male Wimbledon champion since Fred Perry way back in 1936.

Djokovic stopped Tsonga in a rematch of the 2008 Australian Open finale, which was also won by the super Serb.

"It's hard to express your emotions in a very short time but hopefully some more celebrations are about to come," Djokovic added.

In the opening semifinal on Friday, Djokovic and Tsonga went to a tiebreak in the first set, which the Serb won without issue.

A deflated Tsonga was then whipped by Djokovic in a lopsided second, as the Serb broke to open the stanza and broke again for a 4-1 lead en route to a two-sets-to-love advantage.

Tsonga, however, fought back in the third set, which featured no less than four service breaks, including a key one by the flashy Frenchman that sent the stanza into a tiebreak.

In the extra session, Tsonga staved off two match points, the first with an overhead smash winner, and the second with a booming ace. The Frenchman took the tiebreak to force a fourth set when Djokovic misfired long on a forehand return.

The fourth set was dominated by Djokovic. He broke for a 2-0 lead and was ahead 3-0 before Tsonga held serve to get on the board.

Five games later it was over, as Djokovic converted on his third match point of the day when Tsonga sent one final forehand return wide after 3 hours, 7 minutes of quality tennis.

A clean Djokovic tallied only one double fault and 13 unforced errors, while Tsonga wound up with 29 errors and had his big serve broken six times. Djokovic was broken three times.

The two-time Australian Open champion Djokovic, who is now 5-7 in his career major semifinals, is now 3-5 lifetime against Tsonga, including a 2-1 record in Grand Slam play.

Djokovic is now an amazing 47-1 this year and has won 49 of his last 50 matches overall dating back to last season, including leading his beloved Serbia to its first-ever Davis Cup title in December.

The 24-year-old Djokovic already owns a whopping seven titles this year. His lone 2011 loss came against Federer in the French Open semifinals last month, which halted a 43-match winning streak by the Serb.

Tsonga came back from two-sets-to-love down here on Wednesday to stun the third-seeded six-time Wimbledon champion Federer in a quarterfinal affair. Federer had been an astounding 178-0 when winning the first two sets of a Grand Slam match.

The 26-year-old Tsonga, who fell to 10-3 on grass this season, competed in the third Grand Slam semifinal of his career (1-2). He was trying to become the first Frenchman to capture Wimbledon since Yvon Petra back in 1946.

Heading into Sunday, the 25-year-old Nadal is 46-17 in his career ATP finals, including 3-4 this year, with all four losses coming at the hands of Djokovic in Masters events.

Nadal is 2-2 in his career Wimbledon finals, with both losses coming against his great rival Federer. The Spanish great is 10-2 overall in major finals.

The 6-foot-3 Djokovic will appear in his 39th career ATP-level final, seeking a 26th championship. The Belgrade native is 7-0 in his 2011 finals, including a major title in Melbourne and big Masters wins, by upsetting Nadal in the finals, in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Rome.

Djokovic is 2-2 in his career major finals, with both wins coming in Melbourne and both losses coming in New York.

Nadal and Djokovic will meet for a 28th time, with the Spaniard holding a 16-11 advantage. The Serb is 4-0 in their 2011 meetings, but Nadal is a perfect 5-0 in their Grand Slam matchups, including a win at Wimbledon in the semifinals four years ago, a match in which the Serb retired, and a victory in last year's U.S. Open final.

Sunday's championship windfall will be worth $1.7 million.


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