- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2011

WIMBLEDON, England — When Novak Djokovic realized he was the Wimbledon champion, he fell to the ground and covered the grass like a blanket.

It was a fitting celebration for a man whose court coverage was the biggest reason he was able to defeat defending champion Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 in Sunday’s final.

Djokovic won his first Wimbledon title and extended his mastery over Nadal this season with a fifth straight head-to-head victory.

After shaking hands with Nadal at the net, Djokovic walked back out on court and crouched down. He pulled a blade or two of grass out of the manicured lawn and put it in his mouth.

“I felt like an animal,” said Djokovic, who won his first grass-court title. “I wanted to see how it tastes. It tastes good.”

Djokovic opened the season with 41 straight wins, including the Australian Open title, but his 43-match winning streak overall ended against Roger Federer in the French Open semifinals.

“I managed to achieve a lifetime goal, and I managed to make my dream come true, all in three days’ time,” said Djokovic, who tossed three of his rackets into the crowd before accepting the championship trophy. “It’s just an incredible feeling that I’m never going to forget. This is the best day of my tennis career.”

The victory over Nadal improved Djokovic’s record in 2011 to 48-1, with five of the wins coming against the Spaniard in finals - two on hard courts, two on clay and now one on grass.

“He played better than me,” said Nadal, the 2008 and ‘10 Wimbledon champion. “For that reason, he is the champion here.”

Serbian President Boris Tadic was in the Royal Box along with several former champions to watch the match on Centre Court, and when Nadal sent a backhand long on match point, Djokovic turned to face them and dropped to the turf, lying on his back with his arms spread wide.

“I will definitely come for some more Wimbledons, more Grand Slam trophies. I mean, this is what I’m born for,” Djokovic said. “I want to be a tennis champion. I want to win more Grand Slams.”

During the match, it was Djokovic’s incredible movement and precise shot placement that gave him the first two sets. His play dipped in the third, but it returned in the fourth to secure him a third Grand Slam title.

“The feelings that I had at that moment, I really don’t know how to describe. Best feeling I had ever on the tennis court,” Djokovic said. “Winning Wimbledon, looking at my box, 20 people, closest people to me in my life being there, supporting me, getting to share that moment and that experience with them was incredible.”

Nadal had won 20 straight matches at the All England Club. The 10-time Grand Slam champion missed the 2009 tournament because of injury but was playing in his fifth Wimbledon final in six years.

Nadal injured his left foot in a fourth-round win, but painkilling injections helped him roll through the next two rounds and into the final.

“Seriously, I lose because I am playing against the best player of the moment, the best player of the world tomorrow, and I am the second,” Nadal said. “And when you play against these players and they are playing unbelievable, the normal thing is [to] lose.”



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