Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer
Fifth Set Replay
WIMBLEDON, England -- Two points from victory, the No. 1-ranked Federer couldn't pull it out, instead succumbing to No. 2 Nadal 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7 Sunday night in a 4-hour, 48-minute test of wills that was the longest men's final in Wimbledon history - and quite possibly the greatest.
Through rain, wind and descending darkness, the two greatest players of their generation swapped spectacular shots, until, against a slate sky, Nadal earned the right to fling his racket aside and collapse on his back, champion of the All England Club at last, giving Spain its first Wimbledon men's title since Manolo Santana won in 1966.
"Is impossible to explain what I felt in that moment, no?" Nadal said after accepting the golden trophy that has belonged to Federer since 2003.
The first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win Wimbledon and the French Open in the same year, Nadal stopped Federer's streaks of 40 victories in a row at the All England Club, and a record 65 in a row on grass, thereby stamping his supremacy in their rivalry, no matter what the rankings say.
No man since 1927 had come back to win a Wimbledon final after losing the first two sets, and none had overcome a match point to seize victory since 1948. If anyone could, it figured to be Federer, especially on this particular lawn.
He hadn't lost a match on grass since 2002, and he hadn't lost a set during this tournament before Sunday. He also hadn't faced anyone nearly as talented and indefatigable as Nadal.
"Rafa keeps you thinking, and that's what the best players do to each other in the end," Federer said. "That's what we both do to each other."
It was their sixth Grand Slam final, already more than between any other pair of men in the 40-year Open era, and there could be several to follow. Federer is only 26, after all, and Nadal is 22. Federer has led the rankings for a record 231 consecutive weeks, and Nadal has been second for a record 154.
Nadal defeated Federer at the French Open en route to each of his championships there, in the 2005 semifinals and the past three finals, including a 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 rout last month that was Federer's most lopsided loss in 180 career Grand Slam matches.
Nadal lost to Federer in the 2006 Wimbledon final in four sets, and the 2007 final in five. Although the latter was certainly suspenseful, it featured neither the drama nor the all-around excellence of Sunday's encounter, which ended at 9:15 p.m., when Federer pushed a forehand into the net on Nadal's fourth match point.