Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams Wimbledon Champs
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
At Wimbledon, Spain's Rafael Nadal won the men's final in straight sets yesterday, which gives him eight titles in major championships for his career. And a day earlier, Serena Williams won her fourth Wimbledon Championship in a quick match that lasted just over an hour. Matt Cronin is a columnist for Fox Sports, and he joined us on the line from London.
Mr. MATT CRONIN (Columnist, Fox Sports): Very good morning.
MONTAGNE: Big win for Nadal, especially given that he's had knee injuries in recent months. What was the key to the victory?
Mr. CRONIN: Well, it's been a long process for Nadal, because 2008, he becomes the dominant player in his sport. He wins the French Open, he wins Wimbledon, he wins the Olympic gold medal and he surpasses Roger Federer for the number-one ranking.
He gets injured in 2009, last year, hurts his knees during his loss at the French Open, and then is unable to play Wimbledon. And he's gone through a lot of trials and tribulations getting up to the spring this year to see whether or not he can regain his form, finally does in France, and he's lost one match since April.
He's super determined. He's the fastest guy in the sport. He's the strongest guy in the sport. And he's mentally unsurpassed at this point. And right now, at age 24, it's looking like he at least has an outside shot at being the greatest player ever.
MONTAGNE: And he was pretty excited about it himself.
Mr. CRONIN: Yes. He did a somersault for the first time. Generally, he just leaps up in the air and does a double or triple fist pump. But this time, all of a sudden, we're sitting there watching, and goes into a beautiful little somersault and just a huge smile - I think a very, very happy guy.
Because for almost any athlete, when you're at the very top of the sport and then all of a sudden you can't play, you start doubting yourself a little bit. And while I don't think Nadal's ever doubted his ability, he's certainly doubted whether or not his body would ever get him back to the point where he could be a triumphant player again.
MONTAGNE: Well, turning to the women's tournament, Serena Williams was an easy winner, but the crowd seemed to be rooting for her opponent.
Mr. CRONIN: Vera Zvonareva. Well, I think that Serena's been such a dominant player over most of the last decade - that was her 13th Grand Slam title. She was the defending champion here. I think the crowd was rooting more for an upset or for a competitive match, and they weren't necessarily rooting against Serena.
The one thing the Wimbledon crowd likes - and they've gotten it over the last few years - is a highly dramatic, thrilling match. And I thought they saw early on if Serena played even at a B+ level, she was going to go into victory easily. And that's exactly what occurred.
MONTAGNE: You know, speaking of legacies, this was the 13th Grand Slam title for Serena Williams. That pushed her past Billy Jean King. So what does this mean for her in history?
Mr. CRONIN: Well, what it means for Serena - and she pretty much goes out there and plays. She tries to ignore both the positive and the negative records. But now I think that she realizes she's sixth place on the all-time list of overall Grand Slam titles. She's got 13. Now she's five behind Martina Navratilova and Chris Everett, two of the greatest American players of all time.
So at age 28, if she keeps committed and she keeps being driven and she keeps herself healthy - which Serena is, by far, the most important thing - she's got a shot at tying those two.
And if she does tie those two, she could go down in history as one of the top three, four players ever. And I think at the end of the day when she retires, that would mean an awful lot to her.
MONTAGNE: Matt Cronin is a sports columnist for Fox Sports, joining us from London.
Thanks very much.
Mr. CRONIN: Thank you.
(Soundbite of music)
MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.