Federer vs Nadal: A Rivalry Years in the Making
The 2008 Wimbledon Championship Men's Singles Final saw Roger Federer face off against Rafael Nadal for the third consecutive Wimbledon Championships, in which Nadal defeated Federer three out of five sets (6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7). While it certainly was an action-packed final, the unique rivalry, and legacies that followed make it one of the greatest matches in tennis history.
Following a 35-minute rain delay, the two men marched on to the court. With the first point of the match coming from a 14 stroke rally, the audience knew they were in for a show. In the first set, Nadal's aggressive strokes trailed by his signature overhead follow through were quite evenly matched with Federer's aesthetic but explosive hits. Federer, however, seemed unusually agitated and worked up throughout the set. For instance, when a fan yelled, "C'mon, Roger," during Federer's backswing, he turned around and yelled, "Shut up!" Federer rarely shows derogatory behavior like that. Eventually, Nadal won the first set with the game score of 6-4, as well as the second set at 6-4. Another 80-minute break occurred; beneficially, that break seems to have "woken up" Federer. He was able to take the next two sets at 7-6, 7-6. In the fourth set, the world witnessed one of the most exciting rallies of all time. Nadal had a spectacular serve causing Roger Federer to return it shallow, and after both men advanced to the net for two or three clashes, Federer suddenly lobbed the ball over Nadal's head. Known for his outstanding athleticism, Nadal leaped into the air and returned the lob with a backhand smash, a rare move that shocked the audience. However, the smash wasn't strong enough as Federer sprinted across the court and returned the ball back deep to win the point. The crowd roared with satisfaction and excitement as if they witnessed a soccer goal. Another rain delay sent the players back to the locker for 30 minutes, with the break shifting the momentum once more as Nadal, at the 15th game of the set, broke Federer's serve and served out the match the following games. After 4 hours and 48 minutes of playtime, Nadal fell to the floor in celebration as he took the last set 9-7.
Of course, this championship match received worldwide attention. Federer and Nadal both gained immense popularity and labels among the greatest players of all time. They were constantly asked about the match by their fans wherever they went. Nadal, who's usually more competent with clay-courts, proved to the world that he's truly adaptable and defeated the top-ranked grass-court champion. On the other hand, the loss for Federer showed the world that Federer would not sit easily at the top, with Nadal being a tough opponent that would snatch his long-reigning No.1 title and continue to challenge him in the years to come. Although years passed since Nadal and Federer competed in Wimbledon together, Nadal defeated Federer more and more, especially in Nadal's French Open clay-court habitat.
While Nadal won on that day, one cannot deny either player's greatness, as Federer and Nadal have 20 and 19 Grand Slam wins, respectively. Despite the match being considered to be one of the greatest of all time, both players chose to not focus on it. In an interview with ESPN, Nadal stated that he tries not to think about the final every day, but instead about what he is doing in the present. Federer, similarly, wiped past the loss, going on to win the Wimbledon title again in 2009. While both men are fiery competitors on the courts, their rivalry in tennis extends into a friendship off of the court. In an interview with ESPN, Federer even joked that one day, Rafael and he will be sitting in rocking chairs talking about "how good it all was."