Commentary

Why Nadal and Berdych want to win

Updated: July 3, 2010, 1:17 PM ET
By Kamakshi Tandon | Special to ESPN.com

Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych will square off for the men's Wimbledon championship Sunday. The prestigious trophy aside, there are a few more reasons the finalists want a win.

Five reasons why Rafael Nadal wants to win the final

1. Make up lost ground

Nadal looked set to take over men's tennis when he won the French Open and Wimbledon back to back in 2008. But he was ravaged by injuries and family strife last year and had to watch the Roger Federer vs. Andy Roddick final from his couch after being unable to play because of knee problems.

Nadal was dominant on clay once more this season, but that's taken for granted these days. Another win at the All England Club would be a definite signal that the Spaniard is back at the height of his powers and would mean he hasn't lost to anyone but Federer at Wimbledon since 2005.

2. Eight Grand Slams … and counting

After winning his seventh Grand Slam title at the French Open, Nadal found himself 12th on the all-time list, tied with eight other players including John McEnroe and Mats Wilander. A victory at Wimbledon would give him an eighth major, putting him alongside five players, including Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors.

He can begin thinking about Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg territory once he hits double digits. At 24, he has time to get there.

3. Get 'em while the going (the knee) is good

The only caveat is injuries, which is a constant threat with Nadal's physically demanding style of play. The knees are already a chronic problem and have troubled him on and off this fortnight as well.

"[The] pain sometimes appears there," Nadal said. "I don't know when it start and when it stop."

When he is healthy and playing well, it's doubly important to take advantage.

4. Keep the interlopers out

Nadal and Federer have won 23 of the past 28 Slams, with only Roddick, Gaston Gaudio, Marat Safin and Novak Djokovic getting a look in over the past seven years. At Wimbledon, the BRFs (Best Rivals Forever) have shut out all other comers since 2002.

And not that Nadal ever needs any extra motivation to win, but he's had previous run-ins with both his past two Grand Slam final opponents, Robin Soderling and Berdych.

With Soderling, there was the Swede's imitation of Nadal's habit of picking his shorts during their Wimbledon meeting a few years ago. The conflict with Berdych came when Nadal lost their match in Madrid in 2006. Berdych held up his finger to his lips to shush the partisan Spanish crowd after the match, and the two had an unfriendly exchange when Nadal told the Czech he was "very bad."

"He looked at me with not a very friendly face [and] the last thing he did with his finger was out of place," Nadal said afterward.

As with Soderling, Nadal insists there's no remaining bad blood with Berdych, saying last year that he now has an "excellent relationship" with the Czech.

5. Sew up No. 1

Nadal has already built up a substantial lead at No. 1 and stands well ahead of Djokovic and Federer. A victory here would mean he can almost guarantee he'll stay there all the way through the end of the year. How much does it matter to him? Judge for yourself, but when Nadal was down one set to Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals and arguing about whether to replay a point, he glowered at the umpire and said, "So you want to see another No. 1?"

Five reasons why Tomas Berdych wants to win the final

1. To prove to himself that he can do it

Does Tomas Berdych believe he can win a Grand Slam?

"I think this question I can get after the match on Sunday," he said.

It seems the Czech needs to do something before he believes he can, just like he didn't really believe he could beat Federer until he actually did. Saving a match point to win against the Swiss in Miami in March gave Berdych a huge lift, particularly after he had choked away a two-set lead against Federer 14 months earlier.

"It turns quite a lot, in that match," he said.

Reaching the semifinals at the French Open made him believe he could do at Wimbledon, too, and now he's all the way through to the final.

"So I will try to just keep concentrated on myself and playing my tennis," Berdych said.

2. Stop being called an underachiever

Although Berdych may not have completely believed in himself, others were touting him as a potential Grand Slam champ ever since he first broke on to the tour.

His big-hitting game was seen as the wave of the future, and he was once listed alongside fellow 24-year-old Nadal as a player to watch. While Nadal ascended rapidly to the top, the inconsistent Berdych succeeded only in pulling off a stunning upset here and there before dropping back into the ranks.

That only magnified his status as a great underachiever, but no one will be able to say that if he wins Wimbledon.

3. Remind Nadal what he can do

The two are less than 10 months apart in age, and Berdych had the upper hand against Nadal early on, winning three of their first four meetings. But he's lost the past six meetings, including a tight two-setter at Indian Wells in March.

"At least I have three wins against him," Berdych said. "And I never met him on grass."

He says his game plan is to play as aggressively as possible, particularly given that Nadal is trying to take more of the initiative these days.

4. Do something Ivan Lendl couldn't do

Berdych has been asked about comparisons between himself and Czech legend Ivan Lendl.

"It's really nice to be in [with] his name, but still, you know, he achieved much, much more than me," Berdych said.

A victory Sunday will give Berdych something Lendl famously never achieved -- a Wimbledon title.

5. Justify girlfriend Lucie Safarova's faith in him

Berdych and Safarova are a longtime tennis couple, and Safarova has been a fixture in the players' box this week.

Berdych has made it tough on his support section over the years, suffering many heartbreaking losses. But Safarova has stuck it out and is now getting something to really cheer about

"He has a great serve, great forehand. He has improved moving on the court, so I believed in him," she told an Australian reporter after his win over Federer.

Kamakshi Tandon is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.