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Nic Ladds 5th Jul 2008 - 19:22

Rafa will be King

William Hill's Head Trader, Tim Pakyurek, thinks this Wimbledon Men's Final will divide opinion; he makes his view quite clear...

Rafa will be king...

I’ve watched each of the greats of tennis over the last twenty-five years. I’m (just about) old enough to recall Borg and McEnroe and their classic encounters; saw the tenacious Jimmy Connors and the mercurial Ivan Lendl; grew up watching ‘boom-boom’ Becker and the skills of Stefan Edberg; marvelled at the brilliant Andre Agassi battling against his great rival Pistol-Pete Sampras – the lightning return facing down that most lethal of serves. And in this decade, the mighty Roger Federer has dominated the stage.

Twelve Grand Slam titles in the locker. World ranked number one for over four years. Undefeated on grass for six straight years. Whenever the curtain falls on his glittering career, Roger Federer is certain to take high rank amongst the modern legends of the Open era. Indeed, some seasoned observers already place this magnificent sporting role model at the very summit of that particular list. The greatest of the great, it has been claimed. Yet I believe that Rafa Nadal will topple the champion on Centre Court on Sunday . Because never has there been a player with quite the same ferocity, quite the same intensity, quite the same sheer explosive pace and energy, as the phenomenal Rafa Nadal. 

Combining a never before seen blend of power, speed, accuracy and stamina, he’s writing his own book; a new book. Nadal is redefining the art of the possible on a tennis court in the same way that Tiger Woods showed those in his sphere that all that had gone before was merely the overture to his own flawless golfing symphony. After taking apart Andy Murray in the Wimbledon quarter-final Nadal told us modestly, respectfully,  that he’d “try his best” to win the title. Well of that there is no doubt. And look out, because this boy’s best is pretty darn good.

The Nadal of 2008 is better than ever; on that assertion there are no dissenting voices. Fitter, faster, stronger, more confident. In total control of his game.  So in order to beat this new improved Nadal, Federer himself will, in all probability, need to be better than ever. At the very least he’ll need to be better than last year, when Nadal was already capable of taking the Wimbledon final into a fifth set.

Is it possible to be confident about Federer reaching the required standard? Can he be expected to play better than he’s ever played? The formbook suggests not. Federer is experiencing his least successful season since 2002, the year before his Grand Slam breakthrough, with eight losses and ‘only’ two tournament victories to date. Just four short weeks ago Nadal, on his stomping ground at Roland Garros, humiliated Federer, losing just four games in what was, almost unbelievably, the most one-sided final Grand Slam final since 1984.

Federer capitulated alarmingly in surrendering the third set to love in Paris. Does that humbling experience make him more likely to win at Wimbledon? Unlikely. Nadal now holds a clear mental edge over his only serious rival. He leads their series 11-6 overall and only needs this grass court final win to establish himself as the leading player on the planet, regardless of what official rankings might say.

And that victory can be his on Sunday. Federer has his five titles, but it’s Roger-and-out; time to step aside. Rafa Nadal will be King.

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