|Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after defeating Rafael Nadal of Spain in the men's singles final at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London July 3, 2011. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
First, Novak Djokovic took the No. 1 ranking from Rafael Nadal. Then, he beat him to become Wimbledon champion.
Djokovic captured his third career Grand Slam title Sunday with a 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 victory on the famed Centre Court.
Reality had yet to set in following the match for the Belgrade native, who felt he was "still sleeping" after claiming his eighth title of the year, including the second one at a grand slam event after besting Andy Murray at the Australian Open.
Djokovic is now an unfathomable 48-1 this year, with the lone setback coming against Roger Federer in the French Open semifinals last month. He has beaten Nadal five times over that span -- the previous four all finals in Masters events (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Rome).
The 24-year-old Djokovic, who appeared in his first final at the All England Club, will supplant Nadal atop the rankings on Monday, and his latest triumph reaffirmed that status.
The opening set featured no break chances until Nadal, the reigning Wimbledon champ, sent a return into the net to fall behind 30-40 in the 10th game. Djokovic earned a break with a wide return from his opponent, and the Serb cruised through the second set in 33 minutes to seize control of the match.
Djokovic rallied after falling behind love-30 to begin the second set, broke Nadal for a 2-0 lead, broke again for a 5-1 advantage and finished with a decisive hold.
Nadal, a 10-time Grand Slam winner, earned a break on a Djokovic error in the second game of the third set. The only double fault committed by Djokovic allowed the 25-year-old Spaniard to go up 5-1. Nadal held serve to close it out.
Djokovic saved one break point to begin the fourth set, then broke for a 2-0 lead. Nadal broke back quickly, but Djokovic returned the favor in the eighth game and claimed his 26th career title when Nadal's backhand return went long.
A two-time Australian Open champ, Djokovic is now 3-2 in major finals. He came up short in two U.S. Open finals -- losing to Federer in 2007 and to Nadal last year, when the latter completed the career grand slam.
Djokovic, who earned a first-place prize of $1.7 million, snapped a pair of streaks while extending another. He beat Nadal for the first time in six grand slam meetings and, in the process, halted his counterpart's 20-match winning streak at the year's third major. Nadal hadn't lost at Wimbledon since falling to Federer in the 2007 final. Djokovic was the fourth consecutive No. 2 seed to win the championship at the All England Club.
Djokovic also became the first player other than Federer or Nadal to win Wimbledon since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.