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Superb Nadal Captures Artois Championships Crown

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Rafael Nadal

Top seed Rafael Nadal continued his amazing streak by defeating Novak Djokovic to capture the first grass court title of his career at The Artois Championships.

In front of a packed Centre Court crowd, the French Open champion came through 7-6(6), 7-5 in a thrilling final of the highest quality, a fitting way to celebrate 30 years of the event.

“The tournament here was very, very tough, best players of the world,” said Nadal, who overcame Ivo Karlovic and defending champion Andy Roddick along the way. “I can't imagine I would be here with the title before the tournament.”

He now joins the likes of McEnroe, Becker, Edberg and Sampras on the roll of honour, and the Spaniard was proud to be alongside such illustrious company.

“[To] win here, win a prestigious tournament like this, very traditional tournament here in London, in Queen's, best players of the world are here in the past. So be here, near close to the other players, for me is very nice,” added Nadal.

Meeting for the 12th time in their careers and third in as many tournaments, it was Djokovic who made the better start to their encounter. Just as he had in Hamburg a month ago, the Australian Open champion broke Nadal in his opening service game and had a point for a 4-0 lead before the Spaniard hit back in some style to level at 3-3.

With both players producing incredible shots from all parts of the court, the first set eventually went to the tie-break and even there it was difficult to predict who would come out on top.

Djokovic had the first mini-break at 2-1 but again Nadal hit back, only for the Serb to take another lead at 5-4. Djokovic had a set point at 6-5, and with both players trading rockets from the baseline, Nadal’s wrong-footing forehand again saved the day as the Serb slipped to the ground.

After averting that moment of crisis, Nadal wrapped up the first set after an hour and 15 minutes, with literally just a point separating the two – Nadal winning 50 to Djokovic’s 49 in that epic opener.

The frustration for Djokovic was there for all to see as he threw his racquet to the ground, and his mood wasn’t helped as Nadal broke to take a 2-0 lead in the second set.

However, just when you thought Nadal was in cruise control, Djokovic broke back with more attacking play of his own and the pendulum began to switch again. After seeing two break points slip away at 4-3, some uncharacteristic errors from Nadal handed Djokovic a break to love at 4-4 and the Serb then had the opportunity to serve for the set.

Again, back came Nadal who converted his third break point in the following game to level matters at 5-5 and the Spaniard sensed victory was near. On his first match point, Djokovic’s attempted drop shot landed short and after a short exchange, Nadal smashed a volley into the open court before falling to his knees in celebration.

Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Gloucester presented the Spaniard with his fifth trophy of the season and his third in succession following wins in Hamburg and Roland Garros.

Meanwhile, Djokovic rued his missed opportunities in both sets. “This is not the first time I have a lot of chances against him but again, he managed to come through,” said the World No. 3. “Partly was my fault and partly was luck as well. You got to have a little bit of luck. I didn't go for the shots in 5 4 second set. And even in the set point, in tiebreaker, I was bit defending too much. This is wrong tactic against him.

“I should have been a little bit more aggressive and maybe I would get positive outcome. But, you know, it was a great achievement, so I'm happy in general.”

With the win, Nadal became the first reigning French Open champion to win at The Queen’s Club since Ilie Nastase in 1973 and the first Spaniard to win here since Andres Gimeno in 1960. He is also the first Spaniard to win a grass court title since Gimeno won in Eastbourne in 1972.