a classic match — the 2007 Wimbledon final between Federer and Nadal

9 07 2007

The 2007 Wimbledon final is an instant classic.  It’s even being shown on ESPN Classic the day after.  History was going to be made, regardless of who won.  It was world number 1 versus world number 2.  It was the (arguably) greatest tennis player of all time against the only player who gives him much trouble.  was battling not only , but also history.  By winning this championship, he would equal Bjorn Borg’s open-era record of 5 straight Wimbledon championships.

An interesting bit of trivia surrounding this match is that Federer has won 54 consecutive matches on grass courts, which is the all-time record.  Earlier this year, Federer broke Nadal’s record streak of 81 consecutive wins on clay courts.  (FYI, there’s more official clay court tournaments per year than grass court events.)  Since 2004, Federer’s record against players not named Nadal is 278-12, but against Nadal he is now 5-8 (with most of the losses on clay).

Nadal was fortunate to make it to the final.  When he played Mikhail Youzhny, he was behind two sets to love, but then Youzhny injured his back and lost the next three sets pretty badly.  When he played Novak Djokovic, he lost the first set, then Djokovic lost the second set badly and retired in the third set with a foot injury.

The final was really close at most times, and momentum shifted quite a few times.  Federer took the first set in a close tiebreak, then they were on serve in the second until 4-5 when Federer got broken.  Then they stayed on serve the third set, with Federer taking the tiebreak.  Then in the fourth set, things got really weird.  Nadal was still playing really well, like normal, but Federer had a major lapse, falling behind 0-4, and losing the set 2-6.  I was really concerned and anxious (being a Federer fan), because Nadal has lots of stamina and doesn’t ever give away matches.

In the fifth set, a winner-takes-all scenario, Federer was struggling to hold serve early, falling behind at 15-40 twice, yet managing to hold.  It really wasn’t looking good for the four-time defending champion.  I had kept wondering when (and if) Federer would go into his “top gear” that he has, which sets him apart from everyone else.  When he plays at the top of his game, no one can hang with him, not even Nadal.  Finally, at 3-2 in the fifth set, Federer elevated his game, and dominated the last 3 games.

Some people have criticized Federer, saying he didn’t have the mental strength to prevail in the tough situations.  But he came through this time, in perhaps the toughest situation he could face.  At the French Open, Nadal is expected to win, but at Wimbledon, Federer is definitely expected to win.  He faced his greatest struggle ever in a Grand Slam final, and he showed that he would not give up.  He raised his game when it was needed most.  It was really incredible.

The final score was 7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-2.  It was tough to watch at times, because I was rooting for Federer and things weren’t looking good, but going through the struggle made the victory even sweeter.

After the match, Nadal was very complimentary of Federer : “In my opinion, [Federer’s] tennis level is the best in history.”  I’m glad he was a very good sport about it.  He shouldn’t feel too bad.  He played the (arguably) greatest tennis player of all time and really pushed him against the ropes.  Nadal played extremely well, but came up just a few games short when Federer took the game to a level that no one else can compete with.  It was the match of the year.

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