LONDON: Rafael Nadal dethroned five-time champion Roger Federer as king of Wimbledon yesterday with an epic 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-7 (8/10), 9-7 win in one of the greatest Grand Slam finals of all time.
The Spaniard, who had squandered two match points in a nerve-shredding fourth set tie-breaker, added a first All England Club title to his four French Opens, shattering Federer’s dreams of an historic sixth successive Wimbledon trophy.
“It’s impossible to explain what I felt when I won. I’m just very happy to win this title. I never thought I could win but to do so is a dream,” said Nadal who had lost the last two finals to Federer.
“I had match points but Roger is very tough. I want to congratulate Roger because he is great for tennis, win or lose.
“He’s still the number one, he’s still the best. He is a five-time champion and I have just the one.”
Federer admitted he had been beaten by the better man on the day.
“I tried everything,” he said. “Rafa is a deserving champion - he just played fantastic.
“It is a pity I did not win but I will be back next year.”
Victory made the 22-year-old Nadal only the third man to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same season, and the first since Bjorn Borg in 1980, while giving Spain its first men’s champion here since Manolo Santana in 1966.
The win also ended Federer’s six-year, 65-match winning streak on grass.
At four hours and 48 minutes, it was the longest final in Wimbledon history beating the 4:16 it took Jimmy Connors to beat John McEnroe in 1982 and ended in murky Centre Court darkness at 2116 local time (2016GMT).
Nadal shrugged off a rain-enforced 35-minute delay to the start to break first to lead 2-1 with Federer desperately chasing the Spaniard’s power-packed forehands.
The 22-year-old then fought off a break point in the next game to back up his advantage which stretched to 4-2 as the Spaniard edged the world number one in some brutal exchanges in tricky, gusty conditions on Centre Court.
Nadal unleashed a 96mph forehand to claim the opening set, the first set Federer had dropped in the 2008 tournament.
The 26-year-old Swiss star shook off his inhibitions to sneak to a 3-0 lead in the second set before Nadal battled back from 1-4 down to open up a two-set lead when Federer netted a simple-looking backhand.
Nadal saved a break point in the fourth game of the third set and four more in the sixth as the London skies and Federer’s mood darkened.
The top seed saved three break points to lead 4-3 and was 5-4 ahead when heavy rain sent the players off court for 80 minutes.
On the resumption, a reborn Federer grabbed the third set with an ace in a tense tiebreak before serve dominated the fourth set leading to another tiebreak.
Nadal went to 5/2 in the breaker but the champion stormed back to lead 6/5 and claim a set point which Nadal saved.
Incredibly, Federer then saved two match points and grabbed another set point at 9/8 before levelling the final when Nadal, stunned by his failing nerve, went long with a forehand.
At 2-2 in the final set, more rain caused a 30-minute suspension.
On their return, Nadal saved a break point in the eighth game while Federer fought off two in the 11th and three more in the 15th but cracked to give the Spaniard an 8-7 lead.
Nadal went to a third match point which was saved with a inch-perfect backhand.
An unreturned serve gave him a fourth match which he converted to victory when Federer netted a backhand
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