WIMBLEDON, England - Rafael Nadal looked like a guy who absolutely couldn't wait to get out there, clutching his racket and hopping in place near the entrance to Centre Court before the Wimbledon final.
He jiggled his left leg, unable to sit still on the sideline. He even bopped around during the prematch coin toss. When it was finally time to warm up, he zigzagged in a sprint to the baseline.
And when the match ended, Nadal marked his victory with a celebratory somersault. That endless energy, and so many superb strokes, allowed the No. 2-seeded Nadal to outclass No. 12 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 on Sunday for his second Wimbledon trophy and eighth Grand Slam title overall.
A year ago, sidelined by painful knees, the 2008 Wimbledon champion was on his couch at home in Spain and watched the final on television, only the fifth man in the event's history who couldn't defend his championship because of injury.
"Now last year is past," Nadal said. "I know what happened one year ago, and how difficult it was for me, how much I had to work to be back at my best level." He paused, tapping his chest with his left hand, and added: "That's something special for me."
In 2009, his 31-match French Open winning streak ended, he missed Wimbledon, went more than eight months without a title anywhere, lost the No. 1 ranking and dealt with his parents' separation.
This year, he is 47-5 with five titles, both tour highs. He won 24 matches in a row in one stretch, regained his Roland Garros title and the No. 1 ranking last month, and managed the tricky transition from clay to grass by winning the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year for the second time.
"He's showing in the last few months," Berdych said, "that he's really the champion."
Nadal won his 14th match in a row at Wimbledon, essentially, because he saved all four break points he faced and broke the big-serving Berdych four times.
"The biggest difference between us," Berdych said, "was that when he (got) a chance, he just took it."
Still, Nadal acknowledged being "a little bit more nervous than usual" before facing Berdych. Asked why, Nadal said simply: "If you are not nervous in the final of Wimbledon, you are not human."
Nadal's eight titles at major tournaments pushes him past John McEnroe and ties him with a heady group that includes Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl.
"I'm very proud to be alongside those great players," Nadal said. "My career is much better than I could have imagined when I began playing."
That wasn't very long ago: Nadal is only 24.
"He was really strong (Sunday)," said Berdych, who never got past the Wimbledon quarterfinals before and played his first Grand Slam final against a man who was in his 10th, winning the past five.
This one lasted barely more than two hours. Perhaps affected by the constant breeze or those jitters he mentioned, Nadal finished with more unforced errors than Berdych, 21-17, and only two more winners, 29-27.
Still, Nadal did what he always does: run down shot after shot to prolong rallies. After one point, Berdych looked up at his coach with his hands on his hips, then kicked the turf.
By the third game, Nadal was getting the measure of Berdych's serve, returning one that clocked 134 mph. By the seventh game, Nadal edged ahead.
Now, to complete a career Grand Slam, Nadal needs to add the U.S. Open, where he has lost in the semifinals each of the past two years.
Asked to look ahead to New York, where play begins in late August, Nadal smiled and said: "Right now, I'm very happy to win Wimbledon. We're going to think about the U.S. Open in one month."