For the first time in six attempts, Novak Djokovic was finally able to defeat Rafael Nadal in a grand slam, winning the Wimbledon Gentlemen's Singles final 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 over defending champion Nadal. It was Djokovic's fifth win over Nadal in 2011. Here's a look what this result means for both new No. 1 Djokovic and new No. 2 Nadal moving forward.
What winning means for Novak Djokovic:
For Novak Djokovic, winning Wimbledon and claiming the ATP No. 1 ranking for the first time is a lifelong dream come true. But as important as these achievements are for him personally, the impact his dominance is having on the sport could be even more resonant.
With his victory in his first Wimbledon final, Djokovic improved his record in 2011 to an absurd 48-1. Wimbledon is his eighth title of the year, and the year is barely half-done. As dominant as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been over the last several years, neither has done what Djokovic is doing in 2011. The most titles Federer has won in a year is 12 (in 2006), and the most Nadal has won in a year is 11 (in 2005).
If Djokovic can keep up this invincibility the rest of the year, his 2011 could easily go down as one best efforts in tennis history. Hard courts are Djokovic's best surface, historically, and with the remainder of the year's tennis schedule to be played exclusively on that surface, Djokovic could well end the year without another loss.
Aside from contributing to his magical year, this title obviously does a great deal to cement Djokovic's historical legacy. Wimbledon 2011 is his third Grand Slam title, and his first outside of the Australian Open. Winning Grand Slams on multiple surfaces is the sign of an all-time great, and this feat and his ascension to the No. 1 ranking should ensure his spot in the Tennis Hall of Fame beyond question.
What losing means for Rafael Nadal:
With the loss, Nadal's record in Wimbledon finals falls to 2-3. He still boasts an 8-0 record in Grand Slam finals not held at the All-England Club.
It's becoming increasingly clear that Nadal's success at Wimbledon (including his win streak that had dated back to 2007) happened in spite of the grass the tournament is played on, rather than because of it. Nadal is an incredible competitor with incredible speed who hits an incredibly tough ball, and never quits on a single point, especially in important matches. Those attributes are what has made him so tough to beat at Wimbledon, not the grass itself.
Whereas his clay prowess extends to all tournaments (as one would expect given his incredible spin and movement), Nadal had never accomplished much else at any grass tournament outside of Wimbledon. In five appearances at Queen's Club, he has fallen short of the semifinals four times.
It is yet to be seen how Nadal will rebound from this loss, and from having the No. 1 ranking snatched away from him so emphatically. The U.S. Open Series, the next part of the ATP calendar, is historically one of Nadal's weakest times of year, and it's tough to imagine that he'll be as motivated to defend his US Open title as he was last year to win it and complete his career slam. But Nadal has proven time and time again that betting against him is a losing proposition, so do so at your own peril.