True champions

THE FINAL of the men’s competition saw the pairing everyone wanted, but no one quite expected on grass: Federer against his nemesis, Rafael Nadal.

In the quarter-finals, defending champion Roger Federer had come up against the last man to beat him at the All England Club, back in 2002, Mario Ancic. The tall Croat was supposed to provide a stiff challenge to the Swiss world number one’s relentless progress, but was forced to capitulate in the face of an immaculate onslaught. The 34-year-old Jonas Bjorkman fared no better in the semis, while Nadal was busy dispatching first outsider, Jarko Nieminen, and then Hewitt-conqueror, Marcos Baghdatis.

On Sunday afternoon, then, the stage was set. Federer set the tone, breezing through the first set without the loss of a game. A scrap then developed, the Swiss coming through a second set tie-break, before losing the third, his first of the tournament, by a similar margin. Obviously riled, the three-time champion grabbed a 5-1 lead, before closing out the Spaniard 6-3 to claim his fourth straight title. Having already beaten Bjorn Borg’s winning streak on this surface, Federer will attempt to equal the Swede’s title-winning record in 2007 at the tournament he loves.    

In the ladies competition, perennial second best, Amelié Mauresmo, kept her vow to make 2006 a year to remember, by taking her second Grand Slam title of the current season, thus becoming the first Frenchwoman since Suzanne Lenglen, in 1925, to take the Venus Rosewater dish. Her 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Justine Henin-Hardenne was no more than deserved, in the light of her previous dismissals of Anastasia Myskina and Maria Sharapova. Henin-Hardenne had reached the final by overcoming qualifier Severine Bremond and fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters.