Rafa Wins Wimbledon, Finally!
Wimbledon has a new king. Rafael Nadal dethroned Roger Federer after a five-year reign by winning the longest-ever Wimbledon men’s final.
The consistently heartstopping 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (8-10), 9-7 classic began at 2.35pm and thanks to a couple of breaks for rain (surely necessary for the spectators to catch their breath), it ended at 9.15pm with the 22-year-old from Mallorca dropping to the ground with his arms outstretched in celebration.
Watching the four hours and 48 minutes on-court action, from the vantage point of the royal box, was Centre Court legend Bjorn Borg. Nadal had matched the Swede’s fantastic feat of winning the Grand Slams of Roland Garros and Wimbledon back-to-back and had also prevented Federer surpassing the five titles in a row he collected between 1976 and 1980.
Conditions for the latest duel between tennis’s two finest players could not have been more demanding. The rain, which delayed the start for 27 minutes, eventually cleared but the chill, gusting wind which accompanied it persisted throughout the match, blowing winning shots off course and making life even more difficult for the two competitors. That they coped so well spoke volumes for their skill and adaptability.
With the five-time champion looking less than his authoritative best, it was Nadal who struck the first heavy blow, capitalising on successive Federer errors to break for a 2-1 lead.
From the start Nadal concentrated his battering-ram attack on the Federer backhand, aiming every serve and looping forehand in that direction and it kept the champion in an unaccustomed position – on the back foot. Federer prospered more when he switched to net-rushing but he could not block Nadal’s inexorable advance towards the first set.
The Spaniard managed to fight off a break point to stay 3-1 ahead and he needed to avert two more as he served for the set, which he clinched on his third set point after 48 minutes, courtesy of another brace of ground stroke errors from Federer.
It was the first set Federer had dropped since the final of the French Open, when he was routed by the same Nadal.
Federer’s counter-attack was immediate and it rushed him into a three-game lead which he extended to an apparently commanding 4-1 with his sixth and seventh aces, only for the irrepressible Nadal to bounce back with some thrilling, all-action stuff.
To Federer’s visible anger, his serve was broken as a stretched volley flew out of play and Nadal pulled level at 4-4 as Federer squandered yet another break point.
Now Nadal was in full, thrilling flow, breaking Federer again to lead 5-4 with another huge forehand and celebrating with pumped fists. As he was serving for the second set, Nadal received a warning from umpire Pascal Maria of France for taking too long between serves.
Clearly unsettled by the timing of that censure, the Spaniard permitted Federer another break point on a wind-caused error, but in typical fashion dug deep and clinched the set when Federer once more mistimed a backhand into the netting. So, having swept five games, Nadal was in the driving set, two sets ahead.
Nadal’s authority suffered a scare in the third game of the third set when he slipped in making a sudden change of direction and called in the trainer to check on his right knee. No time-out was requested by Nadal, though his speed around court appeared to be affected for a while.
He was at full stretch in the next game, fighting off two Federer break points and, as dark clouds began to mass over Centre Court, the champion went flat out to recover a set and get back into the match. But four more break points went begging as Nadal held for 3-3 before wasting three break points of his own which would have put him 4-3 ahead and perfectly positioned to win.
Instead, with Federer leading 5-4, the expected downpour set in and play was held up for one hour 20 minutes. On the resumption it was Federer who dominated when a tie-break was needed to resolve the set, hammering four aces to take it by seven points to five.
The fourth set did not contain a single break point for either man and when the second tie-break of the match arrived it was a sensation, with Nadal first leading by five points to two and then reaching, and missing, two Championship points before Federer levelled at two sets all when a Nadal backhand error left him the winner by 10 points to eight.
Another downpour drove the players off court for half an hour with the score at 2-2 in the final set and when they returned the light was fading. But the spirit of both finalists burned bright as they hammered the ball at each other just as eagerly as they had done when this marathon first began.
At 3-4 Nadal saved a break point which would have left Federer serving for the title. At 6-6 Federer saved a couple of break points. Finally, in the gloom, the Spaniard broke to lead 8-7 when Federer struck a forehand too long.
So Nadal served for the match again, getting to his third Championship point only for Federer to hit an incredible backhand service return. Deuce once again, but Nadal moved to his fourth match point with a big serve and, with the crowd going wild, Federer finally cracked, dumping a forehand in the net.
It was late, very late, but not too late for the coronation of a new king to begin.
Source: Wimbledon Official Site (including photos)