WIMBLEDON, England — About an hour after Rafael Nadal finished off Andy Murray in the Wimbledon semifinals, a reporter began a question in Spanish this way:
"One year later, another final ..."
The guy quickly was cut off. And corrected.
"No," Nadal said, "two years later."
Wimbledon Semifinals: Rafael Nadal def Andy Murray
The way Nadal's playing at the moment, it seems like he never left. Still, don't forget that he missed Wimbledon in 2009, sidelined by sore knees that made him only the fifth player in the history of the tournament unable to defend his title because of injury.
Which is why, 12 months ago, the men's final at the All England Club went on without him for the only time in the past five years.
"I watched at home," Nadal said. "On the sofa."
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Now the Spaniard is front-and-center on Centre Court once again, on top of his forehand-whipping, every-shot-retrieving, foe-demoralizing game. The No. 1-ranked and No. 2-seeded Nadal will be bidding for his second Wimbledon championship and eighth Grand Slam title overall Sunday, when he plays No. 12-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in the final.
"For sure, that makes (it) more special," Nadal said after beating Murray 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-4 in Friday's semifinals, "because I worked a lot to be back, playing my best tennis. I did, so that's very important. Personal satisfaction, no?"
Nadal's wait to return to the Wimbledon final lasted two years, which probably seems like the blink of an eye to local fans. Thanks to Murray's loss, their wait for a homegrown champion drags on: A British man hasn't won the title since Fred Perry in 1936; one hasn't even reached the final since Henry "Bunny" Austin in 1938.
"I obviously want to win for myself. I want to win for the guys I work with. I want to win for, you know, the U.K.," said Murray, who also lost in the semifinals last year and appeared on the verge of tears at his news conference. "A little bit more disappointing than other Grand Slams, because this one is, you know, the biggest one of the year for me."
Nadal has won his last 13 matches at the grass-court major, and 25 of 27, with the only losses coming against Roger Federer in the 2006 and 2007 finals. Nadal beat Federer in the epic 2008 title match, which ended at 9-7 in the fifth set as darkness descended.
This time, a new foe will be across the net: Berdych, who followed up his quarterfinal upset of six-time champion Federer by ousting No. 3 Novak Djokovic of Serbia 6-3, 7-6 (9), 6-3 Friday.
This will be Nadal's 10th Grand Slam final; Berdych's first. Might Berdych feel some pressure because of that?
"I hope so," Nadal said with a smile, "but I don't think so."
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