Few tennis matches have seemed as fated to be classics as the one that was played on Wimbledon’s Centre Court on July 6, 2008. The skies over southwest London were ominous that afternoon, but anticipation had rarely run higher. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were about to face off in another final at the All England Club.
TENNIS Magazine presents: an oral history—and 10th anniversary celebration—of the greatest match ever.
TRAILER: Strokes of Genius, sponsored by Humana
Part 9: Two outcomes
Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated senior writer; author of Strokes of Genius: Nadal lost the fourth set after having championship points; how could he recover from that? During the rain delay at the start of the fifth, I went down to the locker room and saw Toni Nadal walking out after talking to Rafa. I asked him in German how his nephew was doing, expecting him to throw his hands in the air. But Toni, who never sugarcoats anything, smiled and said something like, “He’s not doing as badly as you might think.”
He was right, because Rafa held steady through the fifth set. With both players holding serve, and my deadline coming up, I had two pieces ready to go. In one, Federer had made a stirring comeback. In the other, Nadal had pulled off a coup and planted his flag on Federer’s turf. They were both great stories; it’s a shame only one could run.
But I felt like both came together with Nadal’s celebration at the end. The most memorable image for me was seeing Robert Federer, Roger’s father, help Rafa up into the player box after he had just beaten his son. You wouldn’t see that in other sports, and it summed up the day for me.
Follow the entire oral history at TENNIS.com/StrokesOfGenius
A LANDMARK DOCUMENTARY DURING THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS EVENT IN SPORTS, CELEBRATING THE UNPARALLELED FEDERER-NADAL RIVALRY AND 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE GREATEST MATCH EVER PLAYED.
In association with All England Lawn & Tennis Club, Rock Paper Scissors Entertainment and Amblin Television. Directed by Andrew Douglas.