Will we see anything like the 2008 Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal ever again?

In the last week Tennis-Pulse has counted down the greatest matches ever played on grass. In the process we’ve had to make several omissions of both fantastic and iconic matches (Federer against Roddick in the Wimbledon final 2009 springs to mind), but we certainly hope that we’ve done tennis’ most traditional and beloved surface justice. If you haven’t read our picks yet, you can do so by clicking the links below:

#HM2: Isner vs Mahut – Wimbledon R1 2010
#HM1: Sampras vs Ivanisevic – Wimbledon SF 1995
#5: Borg vs Gerulaitis – Wimbledon SF 1977
#4: Rafter vs Agassi – Wimbledon SF 2000
#3: Federer vs Nadal – Wimbledon F 2007
#2: Borg vs McEnroe – Wimbledon F 1980

We are now down to our number one pick, which is regarded by many not only as the greatest grass court match ever played, but as the greatest tennis match overall – bar none. We present:

Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer – Wimbledon Final 2008

Background
During the mid-00s no other athlete dominated his sport like Roger Federer. The Swiss racked up eleven out of sixteen Grand Slam titles between 2004 and 2007. “Veni, vidi, vici”, the then 26-year-old Federer must have thought, after he ended yet another glorious season in 2007. At the Australian Open that year he had dispatched every opponent with ruthless power and immaculate precision, all the while seeming like he was dancing around the court with the footwork of the great ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov. “Now you’re over exaggerating”, you might be thinking. Well, just ask Andy Roddick how he felt after being outplayed, outwitted and eventually outclassed in their semi-final.

As it stands in 2017, Federer’s showing Down Under – in which he claimed his 10th major title – would prove to be his most dominant display at a Grand Slam tournament. However, when the year was finished his tally stood at an impressive twelve, just two behind the then all-time record holder Pete Sampras. Federer had won his fourth consecutive US Open in the fall, but it was at a certain summer tournament where the Swiss’ dominance seemed to be forever attached: Wimbledon.

Above the entrance to the All England Club’s Centre Court is a famous inscription of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If…”. One part reads: “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same…”

From 2003 to 2006 Federer didn’t lose more than one set in any match at Wimbledon. In 2007 he claimed his fifth title in a row at SW19, equaling Björn Borg’s record from 1976 to 1980. But clouds of disaster had begun to build, albeit very, very slowly. In the Wimbledon final that year, arch rival Rafael Nadal had been the superior player for the better part of the match, as the fifth and deciding set came into focus. Federer would go on to clinch that set – and thus the match and the title – quite comprehensively; 6-2. Nadal would cry for his lost opportunity after the match, telling his uncle Toni that he may never reach a Wimbledon final again. Federer, on the other hand, rather gratefully stated: “I’m happy with every title I get before he takes them all.” It was as if Federer had heard Nadal gently whisper in his ear: “For sure, we must all face Disaster, no?”

363 days later the pair squared off at tennis’ most famous Centre Court for a third consecutive time. Nadal was riding into the final with loads of confidence. Not only had he embarrassed his great rival at the French Open one month earlier (6-1, 6-3, 6-0), but his grass form was nothing short of spectacular. In Queen’s a few weeks earlier he lifted his first title on the surface, and en route to the Wimbledon final he had dropped just one set as he looked determined to capture the first Channel Slam since Borg’s glory days. Federer, on the other hand, had only two titles to his name in 2008 but also expectedly had lifted his form just in time for Wimbledon. He knocked down one opponent after another, not losing a single set before the showdown with the Spaniard.

I will now guide you through the match, step by step. The entire match can be seen below:

First set
Rain had pushed the starting time forward by 35 minutes. After a short interview with the BBC, Nadal stepped onto the court, quickly walking to his chair, his eyes glowing with intense fire. Contrarily, the four years and ten months older Federer walked onto the grass with a sense of calmness – like he had just woken up and sipped down his first cup of tea – gently waving his right hand to the crowd. The contrast in style, persona and energy seemed to be miles apart. As the first point of the match got underway, that contrast grew even more apparent. Federer’s first serve delivery, an angled medium-paced serve to his opponent’s backhand, oozed elegance. Nadal, in a sleeveless shirt and taped tightly below each knee, returned the ball with the frenzy and urgency that had made him win the French Open four times already at the tender of 22. Those same characteristics helped him take control of the point, finishing it with a banana-like winner down the line off his forehand side.

However, the Swiss wasn’t late to respond. After clinching the next two points off two Nadal errors, he fired a cracking ace down the T to hold, 1-0. At 15-0 in the next game we got a prime example of Federer’s ability to turn defense into offense in the blink of an eye. Nadal’s whipping cross court forehand got Federer on the run, but his slice was a brilliant piece of defending, landing right on the baseline. The Spaniard sent yet another shot aimed towards his opponent’s backhand, but this time Federer was ready. After a cleanly struck backhand he moved forward, taking command with a shot to Nadal’s backhand corner. He finished the point with a schoolbook volley that made Tim Henman giggle with presumed pleasure in the commentary booth.

“Federer has just come out ready to play”, Henman mused. Well, if Federer was ready from the get-go, Nadal seemed as focused as Usain Bolt on the starting line of a 100 meter final at the Olympics. The 22-year-old held to 30 after Federer misguided an inside-in forehand. Nadal went on to create the first break point opportunity of the match, displaying a tactically sound grass court baseline game – at 15-0 he took the ball incredibly early off his forehand wing to draw the error from Federer. The Spaniard didn’t hesitate on break point, smacking a return with depth and spin, catching Federer off guard; 2-1 Nadal.

During the last couple of years we’ve seen the generation of the Dimitrovs, Raonics and Nishikoris getting one-off shots at the big titles. However, for Rafa, that kind of ‘top mediocrity’ was never the case. At 22 he was the winner of four Grand Slam tournaments, and although he was considered a clay court specialist, the meeting with Federer in the Wimbledon final that day was already his third. Experience, or rather a lack thereof, was never going to be an issue. Thus it wasn’t unexpected that Nadal made sure he didn’t let Federer assert a comeback in the beginning stages of that first set. Rafa’s tremendous forehand and defensive fortitude got the better of Federer, fending off a break point and holding for 3-1.

The defending champion then turned into Rolex-speed mode, securing his second game of the match in less than 50 seconds. If it wasn’t for the upcoming changeover, the quickness of Federer’s service game might have put some pressure on Nadal. However, the Spaniard’s composure was imperturbable, as he continued to execute his aggressive game plan to perfection. And just as it seemed as if Federer had gained the upper hand in a point, for instance at 30-15 in the sixth game, Nadal could rely on his accurate passing shots to do the trick. Rafa held to 15 when a backhand down the line from the Swiss didn’t find the court. During the first 27 minutes of play the younger man had been the better player and deservedly held the lead; 4-2.

Focused Wimbledon finalists at Centre Court.

Suddenly, in the next game, Federer found the offensive timing worthy of a five-time Wimbledon champion. That sort of flowing timing had been partly missing from the 26-year-old in the first couple of games, as if seeing Nadal’s face across the court had disrupted his rhythm. Federer held to reduce Nadal’s lead to 4-3, but just as quickly as he had found his range, just as quickly did he lose it. The three unforced errors that followed in the next game, uncharacteristic even for the hot and cold Roger Federer of 2008, was surprising to see. Henman, who so enthusiastically had let the BBC viewers take part in his admiration for the then twelve-time Grand Slam champion earlier, sat in complete silence. However, we have to give credit where credit is due – Nadal’s footwork, intensity and aggression were sharp throughout the set, making it too tough for his opponent to go for more than the occasional winner.

Federer had yet another of his Rolex-speed games (this time clocked at 48 seconds) – did I mention he was hot ‘n cold? – to reduce Nadal’s lead to just one game, 5-4. During the changeover, Henman finally spoke, naming a very specific detail: out of Nadal’s 27 serves, 24 of them had gone to Federer’s backhand side. And so did the first one as Rafa tried to clinch the set in his next service game. The result? An error from the Swiss. But Federer came up with the goods on the following two points, perhaps creating just enough room to stage a comeback. However Nadal pummeled away at Federer’s backhand both at 15-30 and 30-30, and was now only a point away from winning the set. Federer responded in a champion’s fashion, hitting a backhand winner while remaining calm after a net-cord from Nadal that drew grasps from the crowd. “This is top tennis now!”, Henman’s counterpart Andrew Castle declared. We finally saw the players at their best for the first time since that spectacular point to open the match. Federer used the energy of the crowd to get himself pumped up, but even though he reached two break points, it simply wasn’t enough as Nadal snatched the first set out of his hands on his third set point.

Second set
Rafael Nadal’s impressive display of aggressive grass court baseline tennis left a big question mark in the camp of Roger Federer. Could the Swiss rise to the occasion and produce the kind of tennis needed to defeat Nadal on this particular day? Even his most die-hard believers must have realized that the 26-year-old had a mountain to climb if he was to collect his sixth consecutive Wimbledon title. However, in the early stages of the second set it began to look like Federer was up to the task. He held to love and then immediately pounced in Nadal’s service game. After some brilliant shotmaking he reached break point and fired an unstoppable passing shot, yelling out a “come on!”: 2-0 Federer.

Federer followed up the break with a comfortable service game, striking an ace down the T and consistently putting pressure on his opponent. It was 3-0 Federer. The crowd seemed to sense that the match was reaching a turning point. But Nadal, forever embodying the definition of ‘play-each-point-as-it’s-your-last’, got on the scoreboard, holding to 15 after an overconfident Federer pushed a forehand return several feet long. The Swiss, who was – and still is – known as a great front runner, started the following game with a service winner and two aces, perhaps for a moment feeling that it was just another Sunday afternoon at SW19’s Centre Court.

Being down 4-1 at Wimbledon against one of the absolute best grass courts players ever would make pretty much anyone decide to let the set slip. Not Nadal though. He held easily, and when he won the first point in Federer’s next service game, he subtly waved his racquet as if to say: “I’m coming!”. The Swiss leveled to 15-15, but barely got his racquet onto the ball on the next point as Nadal fired a cracking forehand passing shot down the line to create the first opening in a Federer service game for quite some time. A few moments later Nadal arrived at break point. The Spaniard’s return was average, giving his opponent the opportunity to move forward. But Federer’s backhand approach was never going to cut it. If Nadal’s return was average, Federer’s approach was subpar. And against a defensive genius of Rafa’s caliber, nothing less than greatness prevails. The five-time champ got his racquet on Nadal’s passing shot, but the spin was too heavy and the ball sailed long.

Even though Nadal had broken back to reduce Federer’s lead to 4-3, the quality of the rallies and the general shotmaking had begun to drop significantly in comparison with the last phase of the first set and the early stage of the second. However, one single point on Nadal’s serve made up for that brief absence of scintillating tennis. At 30-0 Federer carved a beautiful backhand slice which brought Nadal forward. The Spaniard responded with one of his lasso-like forehand whips, but Federer came up with a reply of his own, throwing himself sideways and somehow getting the ball back in play. It looked as if the point was over by that stage as the ball had actually passed Rafa, but miraculously he hurried back towards the baseline to produce a rarely seen 360º shot. In the end it was not enough to win the point as Nadal’s following shot, a drop shot, hit the net, but he secured the game a few minutes later to draw the score level at four all.

The break seemed to push the go button for Nadal as he – almost automatically sensing the occasion – upped his return game another notch. The already outstanding footwork was now even more aggressive and precise, letting himself get in position time and time again to hit the deadly cross court forehand, keeping Federer at bay. It earned him three straight break points, and a chance to come out and serve for a two sets to love lead. The Swiss saved the first one, but couldn’t do much about the second as Nadal used his moneymaker shot, the brutal forehand, to secure his second consecutive break; 5-4 Nadal.

Federer struck first with Nadal serving for the set, a lethal approach setting him up for the volley winner. The Spaniard, as always, responded instantly – this time with a rare service winner. At 30-30 Nadal hit the shot of the day so far, a cruising backhand slice passing shot that gave him set point. But just like in the first set, the Swiss saved the first one. And then, out of the blue, as Nadal served at deuce, the wind became a factor. The Spaniard couldn’t really get accustomed to the changing conditions and Federer took advantage, earning a rare break point opportunity. Just as Federer’s game had come and gone in the first set, so did the wind. Nadal erased the break point and eventually clinched the set when Federer’s tame backhand clipped the net. Nadal had a two sets to love lead over the defending champion!

Third set
If Roger Federer was climbing a mountain after the first set, then now surely he was faced with the unfamiliar mission of having to reach the very top of Mount Everest itself. Disaster… can it be escaped forever? The five-time champ, who was riding on a 65 match winning streak on grass, took the first daring steps on that mountain by holding to love. Nadal surely must have felt he was climbing a mountain of his own, trying to overcome the sternest of tests on a grass court. He had to face yet another break point with Federer leading 2-1. The forehand from the 26-year-old went long, and with that the opportunity to secure an early break.

The Swiss serve and volleyed his way to regain the lead and looked to take a giant leap up the aforementioned mountain as Nadal returned to his serving position. Federer managed to reach two break points, but just as he was about to put his foot down, he slipped. Two lousy returns, and the opportunity was gone. He managed to earn himself an additional two opportunities to seal the break, but this time around it was Nadal who said ‘no’.

Not long thereafter Federer faced a couple of break points of his own, owing to Nadal’s passing shot ability being nothing short of remarkable. Federer erased one of them with a well-timed approach. Nadal gave the two others away with poor returns. The Swiss made a leap in the air as he maintained his lead in the set with a serve out wide.

Two, for the match, relatively uneventful games followed before rain began pouring down from the London sky with Federer leading 5-4. People in the crowd put on their rain sheltering pieces as umpire Pascal Maria decided that the third set would have to be finished later on. As the players took to the court again after an 80 minute break they received a standing ovation. The crowd was certainly appreciating the two all-time greats’ efforts. If they only knew what was to come.

Nadal started off by delivering his hardest serve of the match – clocked at 121 MPH – thus having perhaps an unexpectedly easy beginning to his first service game after the rain delay. Or so he thought. Because after going up 40-0, he momentarily dropped his intensity. It was enough for Federer to race back to deuce, now only two points away from snatching the set. However, seeing Nadal off his game for a short period is a rare thing for a rival like Federer. The Spaniard made sure he would offer no such other gifts to his opponent for the remainder of the encounter. Nadal leveled to five all with – you guessed it – a cross court forehand, which drew an error from Federer. The Swiss regained his composure not long thereafter, hitting a ridiculous low backhand volley at 30-15. Henman, in short, was in awe.

Federer held, and so did Nadal. The players now headed into a tiebreak. Would it be a lifeline for the virtuoso grass court master, or would Nadal become the first Spanish man since Manuel Santana (1966) to clinch the title at the All England Club? Federer started the tiebreak with an ace down the T, molecules of chalk rising from the white line. His opponent couldn’t quite repeat Federer’s feat, but he didn’t have to as Federer’s topspin backhand floated long. At this point it seemed as the 26-year-old would go down swinging. “It’s my way or the high way”, he probably figured. And with that attitude he was the first player to get the minibreak, stepping around his backhand on the return for the first time in the match to fire a smacking shot right at Nadal’s feet. The Swiss continued in the same manner after the players had switched sides, this time pummeling away an inside out forehand out of Rafa’s reach. The set was now Federer’s to lose and although Nadal saved two set points at 6-3 and 6-4 respectively, he did so in vain. Another stinging ace from the Swiss and Nadal’s lead was reduced to two sets to one.

Fourth set
“That wasn’t so much of a cheer, as an eruption… they really want their champion to go down fighting, if he is to go down”, Castle noted of the crowd’s reaction to Federer’s lifeline ace. And he wasn’t wrong by any means – the general tennis fan who was lucky enough to get his or her hands on a ticket for this blockbuster obviously wanted to see as much titanic tennis as possible. However, for Federer and Nadal, that “if” was indeed the key word. For one, it would be triumph. For the other, disaster. What all could agree on, though, was the fact that Federer now was close to half way up his Mount Everest after the tiebreak.

Federer, fueled up by his fruitful – yet risky – tactic at the end of the third continued to pounce in the early stages of the fourth set. Sometimes successfully, other times not, as Nadal wisely used the open space the Swiss left behind him after continuously stepping around his backhand. Federer’s aggressive approach seemed to spark Nadal’s naturally gifted defensive game as both players now were showcasing their earth-shattering potential, and with that, their contrast in styles was in full bloom.

Neither player gained a break point in the first nine games of the set, only going to deuce once (Federer’s third service game). The one stunning point after another during those games more than made up for the lack of drama thus far in the set. The crowd seemed to enjoy the display the two players put on, but it was simply a matter of time before the 15,000 people attending the final would be on pins and needles once more. Nadal led 5-4 when Federer served to stay in the championship. He lost the first point and then the next as Nadal easily passed him at the net. It was 0-30 and Federer was on the brink of defeat. The Swiss geared up, hitting a service winner and a forehand winner to get back to 30 all. He followed it up with a strategically smart rally as he, for one of the few times in the set, decided to not come to the net. Nadal, surprised by his opponent’s somewhat conservative decision, sent a backhand long. Two inside out forehands from Federer in the next point was enough to level at five all. Two relatively easy service holds later and the players were now ready for the second tiebreak of the match.

The magnitude of the tiebreak spoke for itself and after it was finished tennis experts and fans alike would understandably compare it to the out-of-this-world tiebreak between Björn Borg and John McEnroe 28 years earlier on the same court. You’ll have to forgive me for the use of GIFs at this point, but if there’s one part of this classic Wimbledon final that deserves video footage more than mere words, it’s this tiebreak. Nadal served first and was dragged to the net as Federer’s return landed short. A seldom seen passing-shot-volley-lob-backhand-smash-and-forehand-winner combo ensued:

The five-time champion had the minibreak he needed. If he could win the next couple of points on his serve, a fifth and deciding set would be on the cards. But with the Spaniard it’s never that easy. It suddenly was 1-1 as Nadal hit an easy forehand after coming up with a great return that put Federer on his heels. When Federer, now visually tense, sprayed a forehand wide, Nadal had the upper hand. The 22-year-old quickly raced to a 4-1 lead after two fine serves. Federer stayed in the tiebreak by firing an inside in forehand winner – exactly the shot he missed just a few moments earlier.

As Nadal won the first point after the players switched sides, Andrew Castle in the commentary booth noted: “That could be the crucial blow!”. Nadal led 5-2, and the upcoming two points were on his serve! When facing a grasscourt genius of Federer’s caliber, you’ll seldom see yourself in a better position to win the match than that. However, it was Nadal’s turn to feel the pressure. He double faulted, and when Federer won the next point with an offensive forehand, the players were suddenly back on serve. The Swiss, feeling the crowd cheering him on, made sure he wouldn’t falter this time around, and now had a set point at 6-5. The 26-year-old patiently waited for the opportunity to arrive, and it did after one of the longest rallies of the match. He was perfectly in position as Nadal’s backhand jumped up at precisely the right height for Federer to pull the trigger. The players knew, the crowd knew and the commentators knew – this would be the shot to finish the rally. If it was in, Federer has the set in the bag. If out, the players are tied at six all. The Swiss struck his forehand – a little bit mistimed – and instead of going in, it went beyond the right sideline.

The players switched sides for the second time during the tiebreak. Nadal arrived at championship point when Federer’s forehand approach landed long. Luckily for the Swiss, the next point would be on his serve. Boom! A service winner. Words can’t do justice to what transpired next, though. At 7-7:

At 8-7 for Nadal, his second championship point, this time on his own serve:

“The two best passing shots of the tournament, without doubt, have just taken place on the last two points. It’s eight all. What’s next?”, Castle enthusiastically commented. Truer words were never spoken during the final. Describing the shots as the best of the entire fortnight wasn’t an exaggeration. On the contrary the shots, under that kind of pressure, were even more. They will forever be inscribed in the history of the game. Not only as immensely important shots, but as a reminder of how exciting, tense and beautiful the game of tennis can be at its absolute finest.

Anyway, it would be Federer who had the answer to Castle’s question. The Swiss immediately took control of the following point with his deadly forehand, gaining his second chance to win the set. At 9-8 he missed his first serve, but Nadal still couldn’t keep his return inside the court on the second. Federer had leveled the match after three hours and 33 minutes, and it was now two sets apiece! The tiebreak of the century – well, so far – had come to an end and it seemed as if Federer now only had the very top part of Mount Everest left to climb.

Fifth set
“Before this match we were talking about the scars from Roland Garros… and I’m asking myself: are there any wounds inside Nadal now?”. The words were Tim Henman’s. The most relevant thing he had said all day posed the biggest question ahead of the looming fifth set. After the heartbreak the year before, how on Earth could Rafael Nadal respond to this? Known as probably the mentally strongest player the game has ever seen, there were still doubts to whether the Spaniard could withstand the onslaught that surely would follow from Roger Federer’s racquet.

At the second point of the set we got a glimpse of Nadal’s answer. He hit an absolutely ridiculous cross court forehand return that bounced out of Federer’s reach. However, unfazed with his opponent’s brilliant return, the Swiss – who must have been rocket-fuel high on confidence after his colossal comeback – clinched the game with a forehand approach and a classic grass court backhand volley. Federer managed to win the first point in both of Nadal’s following service games, but was never really close to making an inroad. Nadal, on the other hand, seemed the player more likely to break. But just as the four-time French Open champion reached deuce in the fifth game of the set, the rain started to pour. Federer in an instance let Pascal Maria know that he wanted to get off the court as quickly as possible. And when the king of Wimbledon speaks, people listen. As the players left the court there was still no answer to who would prove to be the king at the end of this day however.

When Nadal and Federer returned onto court 30 minutes later, darkness had already started setting in, threatening to delay the match until the next day. Federer, certainly aware of that fact, rushed to hit two aces in a row to clinch the game and reached a break point in the eighth game thanks to a forehand struck as sweetly as any:

Converting the break point would mean that Federer would have the chance to serve out his sixth Wimbledon championship. Not on Nadal’s watch, however, as he displayed his unparalleled mental fortitude – as if the crowd or Federer needed any reminder. The Spaniard hit an outstanding second-shot forehand after a more than decent return from the Swiss, finishing the point with a smash.

The players continued to breath down each other’s necks with Federer just two points away from the title at 5-4, 30-30. Nadal was as resistant as ever, leveling the score with a forehand winner. During the next game he struck another beautiful forehand to reach two break points, his first ones of the set. Federer saved one with an ace, and the other by forcing the error off Nadal. The players held all the way up to seven all, neither managing to getting closer than deuce at best. At 6-7, 40-30 with Nadal serving, the number one and number two players in the world played out the best point of the deciding set:

The most important point, which would break Federer’s spirit, would come in the following game. Serving at 15-30, he was on the receiving end of a magnificent cross court backhand from Nadal that completely fooled him. The Spaniard suddenly found himself with two break points at once for the second time in the set. The defending champion mercilessly erased the first one with an ace out wide, and when Nadal’s defensive backhand sailed long, the opportunity was lost. At least so it seemed. But it was as if the backhand three points earlier made Federer realize that Nadal would never cave in. Maybe that realization weighed heavily on his mind as he found himself having to defend two new break points. On the second one Federer’s forehand approach sailed long. And now, after over four hours on court, seeing his opponent brush off championship points in the most ruthless of manner in the process, Nadal finally had the chance to serve for his first Wimbledon championship.

Nadal, quite understandably, was feeling a form of pressure he had never dealt with before in his career. After all, this was the final of Wimbledon. The Spaniard misfired off his forehand wing, and Federer got the golden start he wanted. However, Nadal seemed to shrug off the nerves as he serve and volleyed for the first time (!) in the following point. Moments later he reached his third championship point. Federer responded by smacking a backhand return winner that got the crowd on their feet for probably the hundredth time.

Do you remember the statistic Henman pointed out at the end of the first set? 24 out of 27 serves from the 22-year-old were aimed towards Federer’s backhand side – that’s almost 89 percent. But serving at 8-7, 40 all in the fifth, Nadal went with the eleven percentage option. And it paid off. Federer, completely off guard, was never close to getting the ball back in play. Nadal had arrived at his fourth championship point. Once again he chose to serve to his opponent’s forehand, but this time it was no surprise to Federer. What he did seem to be surprised by, however, was the fact that Nadal’s second shot landed extremely short, giving him the perfect chance to get back to deuce. With the crowd as silent as a church on Monday you could actually hear Federer’s footsteps as he moved forward to strike the most feared shot in the men’s game: his forehand. While everyone was expecting to hear the sound of another line-licker from the Swiss, they instead heard the net capturing the ball, blocking its way towards Nadal’s side of the court. The defending champion had been stopped at the very last hurdle on his way to the top of his Mount Everest. At last, even the great Roger Federer had to taste the bitter emotion of Disaster. As silence changed to an eruption of epic magnitude, thousands of cameras lit up the court with Nadal laying stretched out on the ground. The moment was his. The victory was his. The Wimbledon title was his. But the wonder of what had just been witnessed during the players’ four hours and 48 minutes on court was everyone’s, who in nerve-wracking awe had been watching the final.

I could go on and on about the statistical side of the match. How many first serves did Federer get in play? What was Nadal’s break point conversion rate? And so forth. However, that would fill no other purpose than to explain the match in numbers, and would honestly make us glance away from the actual proceedings themselves. Which would be a shame, because this thrilling encounter was far more than the average tennis match, or the average final for that matter. This was art and drama combined – the pinnacle of sports in general and tennis in particular. The ones who watched the final will forever remember it. Those who didn’t can only hope they will live to experience something similar.

Thank you Nadal. Thank you Federer.