The Greatest Match of all Time – Federer vs Nadal, Wimbledon ’08

Sarang Bargale
|Published 19/08/2016

Many regard the last decade as the ‘golden age’ of tennis. Indeed there have been so many epic encounters between legends of the game in this period. However, none is more captivating than the Federer vs Nadal encounter at Wimbledon final in 2008. Popular public opinion and tennis legends regard this match as the greatest ever. With Fortunes swung like a see-saw in the match  with highest quality of tennis on display by both players. In a battle of enormous stakes, it was Nadal who finally prevailed  over Federer in 5 sets that spanned over 4 hours and 48 minutes. With Federer and Nadal teaming up for the Laver Cup, we thought we should look back at the greatest ever match played during the course of their rivalry. We look at the set wise analysis of the match and the key moments in each match.

Set 1: Federer vs Nadal : 6-4 Rafael Nadal

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 24: Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a forehand during his Gentlemen's Singles first round match against Martin Klizan of Slovakia on day two of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club at Wimbledon on June 24, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Federer had always been successful in coming up with the big points in big matches. But from the beginning of this one, it was Nadal turning the tables on Federer. Nadal struck the first blow when he broke in the third game of the match to go up 2–1. Federer had a break opportunity in the very next game and two more when trailing 4–5, but couldn’t convert any of them and Nadal took the first set 6–4. NADAL 1 FEDERER 0

Set 2: Federer vs Nadal : 6-4 Rafael Nadal

second set

In the second set, Federer almost instantly broke Nadal’s serve and went up 2-0 in the set. But the lead was short-lived as Nadal broke back twice in the set at 2-4 and 4-4 and went onto win the final 5 games of the set to win it 6-4. NADAL 2 FEDERER 0

Set 3: Federer vs Nadal : 7-6(7-5) Roger Federer

Switzerland's Roger Federer returns against Luxembourg's Gilles Muller during their men's singles second round match on day four of the 2014 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on June 26, 2014. AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEGLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images

If anyone thought Nadal would beat Federer comfortable on grass court, his joy was short-lived! Federer is always capable of staging a comeback at any point of the match, which is exactly what he did. Both players firmly held onto their respective serves in the set. There was a rain delay of  30 minutes while Federer was 5-4 up in the set on Nadal’s serve. However, after resuming the match, Nadal successfully held his serve and the set went into the tie-breaker. Federer successfully battled through the tie-breaker and landed an ace in the end to win it 7-5. NADAL 2 FEDERER 1

Set 4: Federer vs Nadal : 7-6(10-8) Roger Federer

Switzerland's Roger Federer reacts after winning the third sets against Spain's Rafael Nadal during the men's final on the Centre Court at Wimbledon, Sunday July 6 , 2008. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) ORG XMIT: XWIM189

In Set 4, both players surpassed all expectations and exhibited highest quality of tennis during the set. Nadal rallied through the set and led by 5-2 with a pair of serves coming up. Everyone thought the end is near. But then, Nadal double-faulted. and sent a backhand into the net to make it 5–4. Federer won both service points to set up set point for him—which Nadal eventually saved and the set went into the tie-breaker.

A Federer forehand that went long, set up championship point for Nadal, which Federer saved with a fine serve. But tied at seven, Nadal drilled an unbelievable forehand winner down the line to set up another championship point, on his serve. However, Federer, on the ropes again, delivered one of the all-time gutsy shots.

After a soft return of Nadal’s serve, the Spaniard charged the net and hit a forehand into the corner that Federer, who was beyond the sideline at this point,jumped all over with a backhand pass that didn’t cross back over the sideline plane until just before it landed in the corner for an unbelievable winner that brought the crowd to its feet. In the space of two points, the players played two of the best shots of the tournament!

At 8–8 a forehand winner by Federer set up set point again and a long return by Nadal earned Federer the hard-fought set. The epic tie-breaker brought back memories of another epic 4th set tie-breaker between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe during Wimbledon 1980 final that ended on a similar dramatic note and something that fans consider as one of the greatest of all time. NADAL  2 FEDERER 2

Set 5: Federer vs Nadal : 9-7 Rafael Nadal

LONDON - JULY 06: Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates with the Championship trophy after winning the men's singles Final match against Roger Federer of Switzerland on day thirteen of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 6, 2008 in London, England. (Photo by Lewis Whyld-Pool/Getty Images)

Rain again delayed the fifth set by 30 minutes, but without taking away any momentum from both players, who firmly held onto their serves. In the battle of Gotham between an unstoppable force(Rafael Nadal) and an immovable object(Roger Federer), it was light that played a major role in breaking the impasse.

In near darkness and amidst camera flashes that apparently distracted Federer, at 7-7, Nadal finally broke through Federer’s serve. However, nothing came easy for Nadal as Federer battled back in the next game to take it to deuce. Finally, on fourth championship point, Federer netted his return and handed Nadal one of the most memorable wins of his career.

A supremely talented player finally beat the king of grass on his turf. Nadal became the first player after Bjorn Borg to win French open and Wimbledon in the same year.The match marked a shift in the regime and later in the year, Nadal replaced Federer on top of the rankings, which he held for a long time thereafter. Many consider this as the greatest match ever played and will tell fables about this for a long time.


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