Great players spawn great rivalries - Muhammed Ali and Smoking Joe Frazier, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson - these greats have time and again taken sport to an entirely different level, and now we have Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal who have decided to join the envious legacy.
Federer hasn't been seen in too many 5 setters as there haven't been enough players who have challenged him to that extent. Rafael Nadal has never come close to winning on grass barring the last time at All England's where he was beaten by Federer after 4 sets. Critics still considered him as a clay-only specialist who didn't stand a chance against the Swiss on this surface. But how quickly do things change..
A blinder of a match where the Spaniard matched his opponent shot for shot and point for point, or rather should we say that he did a bit better than that. The Swiss Champion had taken a leaf out of Sampras' book of tennis, belting aces at will which probably was one of the deciding factors in his favor.
The number of aces could have been much bigger but for Nadal who extended every bone and muscle in his robotic body to craft some incredible returns of almost unplayable serves.
Two tie-breakers went in Federer's kitty and Nadal broke him in the other 2 sets to take the enthralling encounter to the final set. It was power tennis at its best, with both the players having answers to almost every question raised by each other. There were shades of Sampras in Federer and Agassi in Nadal, and tennis fans know very well that the same class of tennis hasn't really been reproduced since the formers retired. But then, as I said before, things do change, isn't it?
Would it be appropriate to say that Federer did get a little lucky in the final set or did Nadal lose his nerves just a wee bit? In two Federer service games, the scoreline read 15-40, but Federer managed to scrap through both times. And we know that this is being too generous against the Champion who then broke Nadal to claim his fifth consecutive Wimbledon Final to give Bjorn Borg some much needed company.
A terrific match which would augur well for the future of tennis since now Federer has to watch his back not only on clay but on the greener version as well. As for Rafael Nadal, he'll definitely get another chance in the future to accompany Manuel Martinez Santana as the only Spaniard who's won in Wimbledon till now.
As Rafael Nadal sat on his chair after the match wondering what went wrong in the final set, we can all applaud his effort which made the final such a pleasure to watch. His ripping forehands from the back of the court hit with phenomenal precision often left Federer bewildered, such was the level of his game and he still ended on the losing side. For the purists, the final scores read 7-6(9-7),4-6,7-6(7-3),2-6,6-2