It was a match for the ages. And, it put tennis back on the map.
It pitted No. 1 vs. No. 2 for the second straight major final, and it pitted the world's hottest player with arguably Wimbledon's most dominant champion ever.
It may have also just made tennis' all-time top ten greatest matches list. Not only that, it might have shot straight to the top.
Coming into Sunday's final, big things were expected of these two players, as they were about to face each other for the third straight year in the final. This was supposed to be the year that Rafa finally ended Federer's dominance on the grass, after punishing him at Roland Garros only weeks ago.
Needless to say, Rafael did just that, but the way that it happened may have saved tennis.
Neither man choked, neither man was off of his game. Nor were they phased by the untimely rain delays, fatigue, or recent history for that matter. If you want to show young players how to play a match, and how to play the sport with skill, grace, and power, you should show them this match.
This match was top-level tennis at its finest, and it showcased the talent of the sport's two main draws at a time when tennis needed it most.
In recent years, the interest in men's tennis in the United States has faded away at about the same rate as Andy Roddick's U.S. Open win in 2003 has lost its luster. Roddick was the new face of USA tennis. The next Sampras, or the next Agassi. But he has vastly underachieved at Grand Slam events since then, and with that, Americans eventually came down from their tennis high.
But there's one thing that American sports fans love more than anything—drama.
And with Federer/Nadal, you have drama. Enough drama to win an Academy Award.
In one corner, you have the traditional gentleman in Roger Federer. He's the quiet, not-too-outspoken leader of the tennis world. He's a gracious champion, and loved by fans across the globe for this very reason. His arsenal includes an unstoppable forehand and an array of "Did he really just do that?" shots.
In the other corner, you have the fiery Spaniard in Rafael Nadal. The lefty phenom is passionate on the court, yet also is just as classy as his counterpart. He has the deadliest backhand on the tour, and is the master of clay. Yet, he appeared on the scene when Federer was rising to power, so his run at glory has been overshadowed by the greatest player of our time.
And when they hit the court against each other, sparks fly. Each have traded Grand Slams on their opponents "home" court, with Nadal as the three-time champion of Roland Garros, and Federer as the king of the grass. Heck, they even played each other on a hybrid half-clay, half-grass court in 2007 just to see who could prevail (Nadal won the exhibition in three sets).
Federer has reigned supreme for the last four and a half years, but Nadal has come ever so close to knocking the king from his throne as of late. All roads pointed to this year's Wimbledon tournament as the turning point in the tennis world.
After a record four hours and 48 minutes, Nadal emerged from the slug fest as the new champion, winning in five absolutely stunning sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7.
This match had 147 winners, countless aces, and rallies that would impress even the most stubborn tennis detractor. And it marked the end of Roger Federer's streak of five straight Wimbledon titles, as well as his 65-match grass winning streak.
Today's match might not be enough to crown Rafael Nadal the new No. 1 just yet, but it will sure make the tennis world a lot more interesting as the U.S. Open approaches later this summer. Now, the little tournaments will matter. Every round of every tournament will help determine the seedings for the U.S. Open.
Federer lost, but he's not one to sit back and feel sorry. He'll be out there this week, being the dominant player he is. He will not make things easy for Rafa in his quest to take over No. 1.
But Rafa will fight. Hot off this victory, he will enter the warm-up tournaments ready to prove that he is the number one tennis player in the world, and like Federer, he will win often.
All roads led to Wimbledon this year, and now that Wimbledon has given us a spectacular result, the focus now shifts to American soil, where tennis has played the understudy to the "Big Three" and...Joey Chestnut.
Will the U.S. Open bring us a new world number one? Will Federer and Nadal take the stage for round three of their 2008 Grand Slam Finals prize fight? Or, will an underdog enter the equation between now and then? And, will that underdog capture the minds and hearts of the American sports fan, or will he succumb to the dominance of the two masters of the tennis universe?
The scene is set.
We know the players.
The question is—will you watch?
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