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Nadal wins epic Wimbledon final

7th July 2008

Rafael Nadal held off an incredible fightback from Roger Federer to win his first Wimbledon title and end the Swiss star's reign at the All England Club.

The Spaniard missed two championship points in the fourth set but recovered to win a dramatic rain-interrupted match 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (8-10) 9-7.

The final shot was struck in near darkness on Centre Court at 2115 BST.

Nadal, 22, is the the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win back-to-back the French Open and Wimbledon titles.  

Federer, 26, had been trying to become only the second man to win six consecutive Wimbledon titles, and so surpass Borg to match Willie Renshaw, who played in the 1880s.

The defeat brought to an end his unbeaten run of 65 matches on grass, and arguably his reign as the undisputed king of tennis.

On sealing victory, a tearful Nadal climbed through the stands to celebrate with his family and supporters before heading to the royal box to speak to members of the Spanish royal family.

Federer, meanwhile, suffered the unpleasant experience of watching, dejected, from his chair as he came to terms with finishing runner-up for the first time.

It may be little consolation but he played his part in one of the great finals.

The pre-match billing had it down as tennis's version of a world heavyweight title fight and it lived up to the hype, Nadal finally winning the longest Wimbledon men's singles final after four hours, 48 minutes.

Nadal went into the match as the favourite in some people's eyes, having thrashed Federer in last month's Roland Garros final and with an 11-6 head-to-head record against the Swiss.

After a half-hour delay to the start because of rain, the Majorcan made the better start with a break in game three, saving three break points on his way to the first set.

The momentum shifted at the start of the second as Federer raced to a 4-1 lead, whipping a vicious cross-court forehand for a winner to finally convert a break point in game two, but Nadal came roaring back with five straight games for a two-set lead.

With dark clouds gathering overhead, Federer looked ready to be put out of his misery at 3-3, 0-40, in the third but the champion roused himself superbly, reeling off five straight points and holding serve to lead 5-4 when rain stopped play after two hours and 14 minutes.

Play resumed following a break of 80 minutes and when it came down to a tie-break, rejuvenated Federer dominated with some huge forehands and unstoppable serving, sealing it with an ace.

The fourth set saw the two players inspired and by the closing stages the enthralled Centre Court crowd were chanting the names of both men. Another tie-break was required to separate the pair - and it was an all-time classic.

Nadal then lost his first championship point at 7-6 when Federer hit a winning serve, and the Swiss saved a second match point with an outrageous backhand winner.

The match was destined for a fifth set, and Federer obliged with a service winner to the delight of an enraptured 15,000 spectators.

When the rain returned at 1933 BST with the score at 2-2 in the decider it seemed likely that everyone would be back on Monday, but the shower passed after 50 minutes and battle was rejoined.

Federer earned a break point in game eight, Nadal two in game 11, but both players remained rock solid under the pressure until they were locked at 7-7.

Three more break points were saved by Federer but the champion was rocking, and Nadal finally landed the knockout blow when the world number one was forced into a forehand error.

All that remained was for Nadal to serve out for the title and, after Federer saved championship point number three with a rasping backhand, the Spaniard sealed it when the Swiss netted a forehand.

Wached by his parents, and coach and uncle, Toni, the 22-year-old fell to the floor before beginning his journey through the stands to celebrate.

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