Nadal ends Federer reign in epic finale
As the night sky fell to plunge Centre Court into near darkness, a tearful Rafael Nadal held aloft the glistening gold trophy to celebrate his first Wimbledon title in a match which will surely go down as the greatest ever to grace this famous stage.
After five sets and almost five hours of an epic rain-affected battle, the Spaniard sank to his knees in ecstasy after finally ending Roger Federer’s dominance at the All England Club.
With the Centre Court clock showing 9.16pm, Nadal, who earlier missed two championship points, finally secured the match 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7 to become the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year.
At the same time, he also ended Federer’s bid to become the first man in a century to win six Wimbledon titles in a row, as well as his 65-match winning run on grass.
“It’s impossible to explain what I felt in that moment but I’m very, very happy,” an overjoyed Nadal said. “It is a dream to play on this court, my favourite tournament, but to win I never imagined.”
In typical Pat Cash style, Nadal celebrated his famous victory by clambering over the stands to hug his parents and coach and uncle, Toni, before venturing across to the Royal Box to greet Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia of Spain.
All would have watched the 22- year-old number two seed experience a variety of emotions as this rollercoaster final – the longest ever at Wimbledon – kept them perched on the edge of their seats.
Nadal, fresh from his French Open thrashing of Federer just three months ago, struck first after a delayed start with a break in game three before saving three break points of his own to seal the first set.
Federer, though, raced into a 4-1 lead in the second until Nadal fought back with five straight games to take a two-set lead.
Both players held serve at 5-4 in the third set until rain stopped play for 80 minutes, but when a tie-break was forced, Federer took full advantage of Nadal’s upset rhythm to halve the deficit.
With the 15,000 crowd chanting the name of both players, the fourth set produced some unbelievable tennis and an inevitable tie-break.
Federer fought back from 5-2 but Nadal then lost his first championship point at 7-6 when Federer hit a winning serve before saving a second match point with a sublime backhand winner.
A service winner from Federer then set up a tense deciding set but when another shower brought a further 50-minute delay, the prospect of play rolling into a third Monday looked real.
Back the players came, however, and the scintillating tennis continued to thrill the crowd, though the players could not be separated.
Finally, with Federer serving at 7-7, Nadal forced a forehand error for that all-important break, which allowed him to serve out and finally end a truly memorable match.
“I tried everything, got a little late,” a gallant Federer later added. “But look, Rafa is a deserving champion, he just played fantastic.”