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ATP Flashback: Nadal Clinches First Wimbledon Championship

Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer, 6-4 ,6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7

In what was one of the most anticipated matches of their budding rivalry back then, two ATP standouts in Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer took part in an epic 2008 Wimbledon final that would change their careers forever.

This marked the third straight time where these two locked horns in the Wimbledon final. Federer got the best of Nadal in the previous two matchups, so it is natural that the latter was very hungry to finally win one for himself.

These two players in our men’s division were on a tear prior to this match. Rafael Nadal was on a 23-game win streak, which included his first-ever grass court title at the Artois Championships in London while Roger Federer just won his fifth grass court title at the Gary Weber Open and then reached the final unscathed.

But unlike in their two previous encounters, pundits were keen on picking Nadal as the favourite here and the big stage was all set with tennis fans all over the world glued to the boob tube for this showdown.

As we continue to wait for more ATP 2020 updates due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, join SBOTOP as we go back in time to this historic clash in London.

 

Highlights of the game

Rafael Nadal fought Roger Federer in the ATP finals of 2008 Wimbledon
                                                                                Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer during the 2008 Wimbledon

Tennis legend and commentator John McEnroe described this match as one of the best ever, and rightfully so given the history between these two superstars.

Four weeks earlier, Rafael Nadal demolished Roger Federer at the Roland Garros, but memories of their past Wimbledon matchups were haunting the Spaniard.

Actually, this was the last match played on Centre Court before they installed a roof. Back then, rain delays interrupted matches like this on several occasions.

These two players gave it their best shot right from the get-go, which featured a superb 14-stroke rally in the first set. Nadal took a 5-4 lead and eventually came away with the first set when Federer missed two opportunities to draw level.

The Swiss native came back firing in the second set as he broke Nadal’s serve by unleashing a vicious cross-court forehand to start. Federer later on established a 4-1 lead, but Nadal won five games in a row to mount a furious comeback to go up two sets to love.

Down 0-2, Federer was desperate to extend this match. When the third set was at 3-3, Federer was down 0-40 but won five straight points to regain the lead. However, with him leading 5-4, the rain started pouring and both players had to leave the court momentarily.

The play resumed with the match still teetering in the balance. Looking to avoid another letdown, Federer used his trademark forehand shots and an ace to take the third set much to the enjoyment of the crowd.

“The rain delay probably woke me up. I said, ‘If you’re going to go out of this match, at least you’re going to go down swinging.’” said Roger Federer at the time.

Federer found himself in almost the same situation when he was down 4-5 in the fourth set. At 0-30, he was in danger to lose the match but he churned out four straight points to escape which prompted the crowd chanting his name all over the arena.

Tensions were running high when it all went down to the final and deciding set. Rafael Nadal quickly zoomed to a 5-2 lead and was threatening to break the game wide open. However, a double fault and a netted backhand attempt brought it to 5-4. Federer had a set point at 6-5 but he missed a forehand while Nadal couldn’t capitalise either at 7-6 when Federer answered back with a strong serve.

With the match level at 7-7, Nadal and Federer had an intense back-and-forth affair for the championship. But finally, a new champion was crowned when the Spaniard sent a forehead dagger into the net on his last salvo.

 

Key statistics

After almost five hours of grueling action, Nadal fell onto the grass in celebration of his first ever Wimbledon title. It was arguably one of the best tennis matches we’ve seen for a while. To be exact, the elapsed time is four hours and 48 minutes.

While Federer had a significant edge in terms of aces (25) and winners (89), he almost doubled Nadal’s total unforced errors in this match (52-27).

 

What happened next?

After winning over Federer in the 2008 Wimbledon Final, Nadal would continue his fantastic year by winning his second Davis Cup along with an Olympic gold medal. He was ranked as the No. 1 player in the ATP rankings.

These two players would go on to have fruitful careers in tennis. Even after 12 years, Federer and Nadal would still own two of the highest ATP 2020 predictions in every upcoming tours this season.

Federer and Nadal are now approaching the twilight of their careers. And while they aren’t the same players that they used to be, that one fateful night in London should serve as a reminder of their greatness on the court.

 

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