With this year’s Wimbledon just around the corner, we thought that now would be a good time to look back and remember what the greatest ever Wimbledon match of all time is.
And, of course, there have been plenty of classics over the years.
Is it Bjorn Borg v John McEnroe in 1980, 1993’s Steffi Graf v Jana Novotna, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut’s record-breaking 11 hour and five minute match in 2010, or Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic in 2013?
In truth, it could be any of them.
But, in the end there could only be one winner. One that features the two greatest and most successful men’s tennis players of all time.
Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal in the men’s final of 2008, a titanic clash and a true classic of the sport.
Federer vs Nadal, The Greatest Match In Wimbledon History?
In 2008, Wimbledon lay witness to sporting legend as the game’s two most dominant men at the time, and as it would happen, the decade, clashed in an almighty final for the ages.
Federer was the reigning Wimbledon champion and shooting for a sixth straight victory here in SW19.
Rafa, then 22, as is customary, had won the recently finished French Open at Roland Garros in Paris, for what had been the 4th straight time.
Already, these two were carving out a rivalry we hadn’t seen in the men’s game since John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. Before long this newer, younger European pair would surpass their esteemed predecessors.
Both Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Spaniard Rafael Nadal have now eclipsed Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam trophies, holding a remarkable 20 grand slam titles each at the point of writing.
All this has been achieved at a time when Serbia’s Novak Djokovic has been operating, himself, again at the time of writing, on 18 Grand Slam titles, proving this to be a truly golden age in men’s tennis.
6th of July 2008, Centre Court, All England Lawn Tennis Association, SW19
Given that we now know, and if we are honest, knew then, that these two were extremely special, it can come as no surprise that when they clashed on court, they were always going to produce one of the greatest matches of all time.
Federer and Nadal met each other in the Wimbledon final for the third successive year and we had been lucky enough to have enjoyed a five set taster a year earlier in the 2007 Wimbledon final where Federer defeated Nadal 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-2 in an excellent display of grass court tennis.
Having, at the time, won 14 of the last 16 Grand Slams between them, this was the Majorcan’s third consecutive attempt at knocking Federer of his London perch.
Federer was the first seed, Rafa the second and, thanks to rain delays, seven hours later, we would finally have our winner.
Play actually lasted an exhausting four hours and 48 minutes in which 22 year old Nadal finally dethroned the Swiss on an enthralled Centre Court.
On the day, rain had delayed the start of the match by 35 minutes but when it finally got going, Nadal came out firing and raced into a two sets lead, winning both sets 6-4, before the heavens opened and rain put a stop to play once again.
Following a 90 minute wait for the all clear to get clear to get going once more, the players returned to court.
The break seemed to have stirred the Swiss into a making a comeback and he narrowly took the third set, and the game was on.
Nadal was on fire though and took the fourth set all the way to, and almost past, the wire.
Surviving a pair of championship points in the tie-break, Federer took the third set 7-6 just as he had the second.
This being the Great British summer, the rains weren’t finished just yet, and the game was paused once more, this time hanging in the balance at two sets apiece.
By the time the pair were cleared to resume their battle, night was falling, and the darkness threatened to drag play into a second day.
But on and on they kept going.
By now, Federer and Nadal were battling it out in a gruelling fifth set, which simply wouldn’t end and, with the final set unable to go into a tie break, it reached its 15th game before someone blinked first.
The fateful blinker was Roger Federer.
Nadal finally broke his man in the 15th game of the fifth set which was tied at 7-7.
The King of Clay had earned himself three break points on grass, all of which Federer overcame.
Then, the Spaniard forced an error from his opponent and finally broke serve before a trademark thunderous backhand, which went unreturned, allowed Nadal to hold his service match to win the game 9-7 and finally land his first Wimbledon title and usurp London’s Swiss king.
Nadal had won 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (8-10) 9-7 and simply collapsed onto the grass as Wimbledon hailed its new Iberian hero.
The game, which was until 2019 the longest final in Wimbledon history, saw the end of Federer’s Open-era record of 65 consecutive wins on grass.
Nadal would win in SW19 just once more time since that day, defeating Tomas Berdych in straight sets in 2010.
Federer, on the other hand, would go to reclaim his title a year later and has since added another two to his collection, bringing his Wimbledon trophy haul up to eight and making him, and his Spanish rival, the greatest we have ever seen.