WIMBLEDON, England — When Novak Djokovic realized he was the Wimbledon champion, he fell to the ground and covered the grass like a blanket.
It was a fitting celebration for a man whose court coverage was the biggest reason he was able to defeat defending champion Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 in Sunday’s final.
Djokovic, who was already guaranteed to take over the No. 1 ranking from the Spaniard on Monday, won his first Wimbledon title and extended his mastery over Nadal this season with a fifth straight head-to-head victory.
Djokovic assured himself of the top ranking just by reaching the final. He opened the season with 41 straight wins, including the Australian Open title, but his 43-match winning streak came to an end against Roger Federer in the French Open semifinals.
The victory over Nadal improved Djokovic’s record in 2011 to 48-1, with five of the wins coming against the Spaniard in finals — two on hard courts, two on clay and now one on grass.
Serbian President Boris Tadic was in the Royal Box along with several former champions to watch the match on Centre Court, and when Nadal sent a backhand long on match point, Djokovic turned to face them and dropped to the turf, lying on his back with his arms spread wide.
During the match, it was Djokovic’s incredible movement and precise shot placement that gave him the first two sets. His play dipped in the third, but it returned in the fourth to secure him a third Grand Slam title.
Nadal had won 20 straight matches at the All England Club, including the 2008 and ’10 titles. He missed the 2009 tournament because of injury, but was playing in his fifth Wimbledon final in six years.
Nadal injured his left foot in a fourth-round win, but painkilling injections helped him roll through the next two rounds and into the final.
Djokovic consistently landed shots while taking advantage of any slight miscue from Nadal. The first and biggest of the opening set came in the final game, when Djokovic hit a forehand winner down the line.
Nadal followed that with a pair of unforced errors, and the second-seeded Serb won the set on the first break point of the match.
Djokovic dominated the second set, breaking Nadal twice while holding serve easily. It wasn’t until the second game of the third set that Nadal finally managed to do something with Djokovic’s serve, breaking for a 2-0 lead when the Serb dumped a backhand into the net.
Nadal broke again and eventually won the set, and the two traded service breaks early in the fourth. But after Djokovic held to 4-3 in the final set with four straight points, Nadal double-faulted for the first time. He lost the next two points and soon was broken again when he sent a backhand long.