Top two face off

No. 1 seed Nadal, the defending champ, has beaten No. 2 Djokovic all 4 times they've played this season

July 02, 2011|By Diane Pucin, Tribune Newspapers

WIMBLEDON, England — — For the first time since the 2009 Australian Open, the top two seeded players will meet in the final of a Grand Slam tournament today when No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal, aiming for his 11th major title, plays No. 2 Novak Djokovic for the Wimbledon men's title.

Whatever the outcome, the 24-year-old Djokovic will supplant Nadal, 25, as No. 1 in the world. Djokovic has marked himself as the best in the world by forging a 47-1 record this season.

The defending champion Nadal, who has a 20-match win streak at Wimbledon, said he does not begrudge losing the No. 1 spot in the computer ranking.

"One guy played unbelievable in the first half of the year, so he's the new No.1," Nadal said. "We can just congratulate him, because what he did this part of the season is something really impressive, really fantastic."

Though Nadal holds a 16-11 career edge against Djokovic, the Serb has beaten the Spaniard all four times they have played this year — in three sets for the title at Indian Wells; in three sets, including a final-set tiebreak, in the final at Miami; and in straight sets twice on clay, in Madrid and Rome, also in the finals.

"The four times I won against him this year can probably help me in some ways mentally," Djokovic said.

The two split the season's first two majors. Djokovic won the Australian Open, Nadal the French Open. And though Nadal has lost to Djokovic four times this year, he has won all five of their meetings in majors.

"Against Rafa, if I have any chances of winning, I need to serve well and I need to be aggressive," Djokovic said. "That's the game plan."

If Nadal were to win his third Wimbledon, it would be his 11th Grand Slam singles title and he would be the second-youngest man (behind Bjorn Borg) to have so many at such a young age. He would be five behind all-time leader Roger Federer (who has 16).

"All I think about is the number 10," Nadal said. "That's what I have at home. That's what I'm able to see when I go home. I don't have 11, don't have 12, I don't have 15 or 16, and 16 is very far."

Djokovic doesn't have to count so high. He has two so far, both Australian Open titles. But the one he's playing for today is the one he wants most.

"It's Wimbledon," Djokovic said. "It's just simply something I've dreamed of forever."

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