COMMENTARY | It's been nearly five years since Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal contested what many believe to be the greatest match in tennis history at the oldest Grand Slam in the game.
A match that was thick with story lines and tension as the upstart Spaniard tried for the third straight time to dislodge Federer from the Swiss-friendly confines of Centre Court in London. In each of the previous two campaigns, Nadal ran into the Matterhorn-sized problem represented by Mr. Federer on a grass court.
Nadal did push Federer to five sets during his second attempt in 2007, something Federer has never done to Nadal at Roland Garros. With that glimmer of light in his back pocket, there was plenty of reason for the King of Clay to believe in his chances heading onto Centre Court that fateful day in July of 2008.
Men's Final 2008
After taking the first two sets, Nadal and many observers of the match must have quickly re-calibrated their expectations. The match suddenly had the makings of a rather routine straight-set affair. Surely, the Spaniard, with a seemingly unending reserve of energy, would not be denied after seizing such a commanding lead.
However, Roger Federer, already a winner of five straight Wimbledon titles, wasn't quite ready to abdicate his throne. After two spine-tingling sets that both ended in thrilling tie-breakers, Federer pushed the match into a decisive fifth set.
Just as the clash of two large tectonic plates pushes mountains into the atmosphere, the collision of Federer and Nadal on that day pushed the game to an incredible level.
Tied at two sets apiece, it would have been reasonable for the expectations of players and fans alike to experience another dramatic reversal. Federer was a sterling 5-0 in his previous Wimbledon finals against a much less threatening tally of 0-2 for Nadal.
If the previous four sets had been magical then the fifth set of this encounter bordered on other-worldly. It was a set characterized by crisp play and explosive forehand winners from both sides of the net.
With Nadal serving 40-30 and down 6-7 in the fifth set, the two contested an unbelievable point. Federer somehow stabbed at a near-winner from the Spaniard's side, which then forced Nadal to retreat and hit an overhead on his own baseline. The point continued to intensify until Nadal hit one of his lasso-like, whipping forehands down the line for a winner. That shot sealed the game and brought the score even at 7-7.
In the 15th game of the final set, Nadal raised his game another notch, resulting in some lacing winners off both wings. It also resulted in two break chances against Federer's serve. Buckling under the pressure from the Spaniard, Federer pushed a routine forehand approach shot past his opponent's baseline. Nadal had secured the break and an 8-7 lead as the last light of the day fell across Centre Court.
With the pressure now squarely on Nadal's shoulders, Federer fought valiantly once again to extend the match. Down 30-40 and playing Nadal's third championship point, Federer struck an unbelievable backhand return of serve to push the score to deuce.
One service winner and one championship point later, Federer's final forehand of the day struck the net and rolled onto his side of the grass. Nadal slid to the ground in ecstasy and one of the most entertaining matches ever played in the sport's long history was finally over.
The Next Chapter
Since that match the two players have not faced each other at Wimbledon, although their presence at the tournament has been as constant as ever. Each final at Wimbledon since that historic match has included one of the two players, with Nadal going 1-1 during that span and Federer going 2-0.
With such consistency, one has to believe there is still a strong chance the two men could play again for the title in 2013, assuming that the seeding and draw allow for such an opportunity.
With a total of 13 Wimbledon finals to their combined resumes, it's hard to bet against the possibility.
It's also hard to imagine a bigger spectacle for the sport than this potential rematch, especially if it occurred on the five-year anniversary of their last battle.
Even with the immense expectations that would certainly be affixed to such an encounter, there's little doubt these two living legends would deliver.
At Wimbledon, one of them always does.
Andrew Prochnow is a derivatives trader by day and a tennis buff by night. He is a frequent contributor at the Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @AndrewProchnow.
- Sports & Recreation
- Roger Federer
- Rafael Nadal