(AP) – Rafael Nadal’s quest for a third Wimbledon singles title ended in remarkable fashion in London on Saturday as the world No. 1 was beaten 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(9), 6-3, 10-8 by Novak Djokovic.
As intense as any athletes in any sport, these two didn’t exactly slowly ramp things up when they returned to Centre Court about 14 hours after they’d departed. Having the roof shut meant every sound was amplified as it ricocheted off the dome — the thwack of ball off racket, the players’ grunts, the spectators’ applause.
This was high-decibel, high-stakes, high-quality tennis between two of the greats right from the get-go, beginning with an 18-point, six-deuce game that last 15 minutes and felt truly pivotal. It included a 23-stroke exchange and three others of at least 11. Rafa saved two break points and when he finally held, the owner 17 major championships, two at Wimbledon, punched the air and yelled as if he’d won the match, not a solitary game.
When Rafa broke in Saturday’s second game, a dismayed Djokovic grabbed a spare ball and whacked it with his racket against the wall behind the baseline. Fortunately, he was at the end of the court farthest from the Royal Box, where the pair of visiting Duchesses, Kate and the newly married Meghan, sat in the front row.
There were other such displays of emotion from Djokovic, who is prone to yelling at himself or at his coach. He reacted by getting broken again to trail 5-3 in that set by raising his left shoe and violently pounding his racket against it — one, two, three, four times. Moments later, he got to love-40 before Rafa took five points in a row to serve out the set.
But it was Djokovic who tended to be better down the stretch in his 52nd career meeting against Rafa in a contest that seemed as if it should be worth a trophy.