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Rafael Nadal defeats Roger Federer in an epic battle in the 2008 final to win Wimbledon for the first time.

Flashback: Relive Federer-Nadal 2008 Wimbledon Final

ATPTour.com remembers one of the greatest matches of all-time

The original headline, "Nadal Sets Sights on No. 1 After Epic Wimbledon Battle", may not have gone far enough, but then again, tennis fans have learned over the years that words cannot describe the rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. They don't suffice in summing up the 2008 Wimbledon final, either, the match that spawned a book and a documentary and is largely considered the greatest in tennis history.

The final, their third consecutive at SW19, had everything to give it the drama of a James Patterson novel: suspense (rain delays), plot twists (Nadal led by two sets to zero before Federer came back) and a surprising ending (the Spaniard upset Federer at Wimbledon for the first time).

Before the two return to Centre Court for their Friday semi-final, the 40th contest of their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry, relive the 2008 classic below.


World No. 2 Rafael Nadal has the World No. 1 ranking firmly in his sights after becoming the first man since Sweden’s Bjorn Borg in 1980 to clinch the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double on Sunday. He also emulated the achievement of Spanish compatriot Manuel Santana, who captured the 1966 Wimbledon title.

Nadal made it third time lucky against ATP World No. 1 Roger Federer of Switzerland in The Championships final, after beating the five-time defending champion 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7 on Centre Court. The final, which finished at 9:15pm BST, was twice interrupted by rain.

"[I'm] just very happy because I played with very positive attitude all the time," said Nadal. [To] win here is unbelievable for me."

At four hours and 48 minutes in duration, it was the longest final in Wimbledon history (since 1877), and the 9-7 deciding set was the longest in a championship since 2001 when Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia defeated Australian Pat Rafter 9-7 in the fifth set.

Nadal has closed the gap to 545 points in the South African Airways ATP Rankings behind Federer. Federer has 6,600 points to Nadal's 6,055. Nadal came into Wimbledon 1,145 points behind Federer.

Nadal's fifth career Grand Slam title (5-2) gives him the most among Spaniards, surpassing Santana (4). Nadal is the second player - after Federer in 2004, ‘06-07 - to win two of the first three Grand Slam titles in a season since Pete Sampras won the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 1997.

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The 22-year-old held two of four championship points in the fourth set tie-break at 7-6 and 8-7, but Federer fought back to within sight of winning a sixth successive Wimbledon singles crown. The Swiss shares the record of five straight triumphs with Englishman Laurie Doherty (1902-06) and Borg (1976-1980).

"Federer is a great champion," said Nadal. "His attitude always is positive when he loses or when he wins. I always have a lot of respect for him. I admire him a lot. We have a very good relationship."

Federer had been trying to become the first player since 1927 to come back from a two-set deficit in the Wimbledon final and win. That year Henri Cochet defeated French compatriot Jean Borotra 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5. Federer was attempting to come back from a two-set deficit and win for the fourth time in his career.

“[It is] probably my hardest loss, by far,” said Federer. “I thought I played well. [But I] missed too many chances obviously in the first couple of sets. Rafa played well. I'm happy we lived up to the expectations. I'm happy the way I fought. That's all I could really do.”

The last male to have saved match points and won a Wimbledon singles final was American Bob Falkenburg, who saved two match points against John Bromwich of Australia in 1948.

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Nadal now holds a 12-6 career lead (9-1 on clay, 2-3 on hard, 1-2 on grass) against Federer. It was their 14th overall meeting in a final (Nadal leads 10-4). This was the sixth career meeting in a Grand Slam final between the two superstars (Nadal leads 4-2), which is the most in the Open Era.

Nadal improved his match winning streak to 24 in a row since his last loss to compatriot and former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero in the opening round at Masters Series Rome on May 7. It is also Nadal's fourth straight title (Masters Series Hamburg, Roland Garros, Queen's, Wimbledon) and an ATP-best sixth title of the year.

Federer's all-time record 65-match winning streak on grass, including 40 in a row at Wimbledon, comes to an end (since his last loss to Croatian Mario Ancic in the first round at Wimbledon six years ago). Federer's unbeaten streak in 10 career grass court finals also ends.

Since Roland Garros in 2005 when Nadal captured his first Grand Slam crown, 13 of the last 14 Grand Slam titles have been won by Federer (8) or Nadal (5). The lone exception came at the Australian Open in January when Novak Djokovic broke through to win his first Slam title.

The 2008 Wimbledon final was the third time in the Open Era that the same two players had met in the championship of a Grand Slam tournament for three consecutive years. The others were Federer and Nadal at Roland Garros (2006-08) and from 1988-90 at Wimbledon where Sweden’s Stefan Edberg defeated Boris Becker of Germany in two of the three years.

In the mixed doubles final, which did not start until 8:32pm BST, American Bob Bryan and Samantha Stosur of Australia upset top seeds Mike Bryan and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia 7-5, 6-4 in 61 minutes on Court One.