The Wimbledon 2008 final: Looking back at the crown jewel in the 'Fedal' rivalry
The mind knows when it is witnessing something special. There are a few moments of athletic excellence that imprint themselves in our heads forever, and the creators of that surreal experience enshrine their place in the hearts of sporting aficionados across the world.
6 July 2008 was one such occasion. Two of the greatest racquet wielders that the sport of tennis has ever seen - Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal - captivated all those who watched them in action on that day. In the process, they scripted arguably the greatest tennis match of all time.
Federer had arrived into the tournament as the undisputed emperor of grass, as the five-time defending champion. And Nadal arrived there on his quest to end the Swiss Maestro’s dominance.
In fact, Federer had downed the raging Spaniard in two previous meetings at Wimbledon, and it seemed that a gargantuan effort was needed to stop the seemingly flawless Swiss from marching on to further glory.
Nadal broke the Federer serve early in the in the third game of the first set with a powerful forehand. Federer clawed his way back into the match through deft drop shots and sublime backhands, but was unable get the break back. After a stiff battle, Nadal took the first set 6-4.
Federer raced to a 4-1 lead in the second, and it looked like he would run away with the set in no time. But the fighter in Nadal did not give up.
The seventh and eighth games of the second set witnessed some stunning tennis from the two champions; the artistry of Federer was contrasted by the ruggedness defiance of Nadal. But in the end, it was the Spaniard who held his nerve to win five games in a row and take the second set 6-4.
Were we going to see a straight sets defeat for the undisputed king of Wimbledon? Or would the magician delve into his seemingly endless reserves and come back into the match?
The third set went to a tiebreaker with each man holding serve. And the breaker witnessed some sublime tennis from Federer. He started with an ace, his forehand started weaving magic again, and he ended up winning the shootout comfortably to take the match into a fourth set.
The fourth set also was like a roller-coaster ride, with neither man giving an inch. Nadal took a 4-1 lead in the tiebreaker and it looked as though he would run away with the title. But Federer would not go down so easily.
The Swiss Maestro combined artistic splendor with aggression and took the score to 5-5. It was now a matter of which man held his nerve.
Nadal had a match point on his serve at 8-7, just one swing away from winning the championship. But his masterful opponent produced a stunning backhand down the line to keep the match alive.
Federer won the tiebreak 10-8, and the match moved into the deciding set.
The fifth set began with neither man giving an inch. It was a marathon, and each player held serve without much trouble. But the crowd knew that something had to give. Someone had to break the stalemate.
The 15th game of the set witnessed that moment.
Facing a break point, Federer’s forehand went wide, and Nadal had the advantage. The Spaniard held his nerve, and after 4 hours and 48 minutes of riveting tennis, he beat Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7.
Federer and Nadal would go on to have several epic battles in their illustrious rivalry through the next decade as well. But this Wimbledon final between the two icons will always remain the crown jewel.