Monday, July 7, 2008

Wimbledon - Nadal claims first Wimbledon title

Eurosport - Mon, 07 Jul 09:13:00 2008

Rafael Nadal ended Roger Federer's five-year reign as king of Wimbledon with a 6-4 6-4 6-7 6-7 9-7 victory in one of the most dramatic finals seen at the All England Club.

TENNIS Rafa Nadal campeón Wimbledon 2008 foto EFE - 0

The 22-year-old Nadal survived an incredible Federer fightback to become the first Spaniard to win the grasscourt grand slam since Manuel Santana in 1966. He is also the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year.

After two rain interruptions the players returned to court for a third time with light fading fast and in a nerve-shredding finale the contest ended with Nadal collapsing to the dusty baseline after a Federer forehand struck the net.

"It's impossible to explain what I felt in that moment...winning my favourite tournament, it's a dream," Nadal said after climbing through the crowd to hug his family and shake hands with Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia of Spain in the Royal Box.

"He's (Federer) still the number one, he's still the best, he's five times champion, now I have one."

Defeat ended Federer's six-year unbeaten run on grass, spanning 65 matches and ended his hopes of surpassing Borg's five consecutive Wimbledon titles.

The Swiss, who is still two grand slam titles shy of Pete Sampras's record 14, took defeat like a true champion, although he later said it was too dark to play at the end.

"I tried everything," the 26-year-old said on court. "Rafa is a deserving champion, he just played fantastic.

"It didn't make it easier but I expected the worst. It's the worst opponent on the best court. It's been a joy to play here again. It's a pity I couldn't win it but I'll be back next year."

A shattered-looking Federer later told reporters it was the "hardest" loss of his career.

The final was delayed by half an hour because of rain and when battle did commence it was world number two Nadal who came out firing on all cylinders.

He broke Federer's second service game when the Swiss completely missed a backhand in the gusty conditions.

Nadal targeted Federer's off-key backhand relentlessly and it paid handsome dividends as the Swiss failed to capitalise on several chances to get back into the set.

Federer had two break points when Nadal served for the set at 5-4 but failed to convert and then netted another backhand to hand the marauding Majorcan the opener.

Nadal soon found himself 4-1 down in the second set as Federer's game clicked but he broke back in the seventh game with a pummelled pass that flew off Federer's racket.

With the momentum back Nadal applied the thumbscrews on Federer to break again, forging a two-set lead and sending the Swiss slouching despondently back to his chair.

Nadal seemed closed to victory at 3-3 in the third set when Federer fell 0-40 down on serve but the Swiss served his way out trouble and suddenly the spark returned.

After the first lengthy rain delay he pounced in the tiebreak, taking control with two sweetly struck forehands before clinching the third set with an ace.

Twice Federer showed tremendous resolve when he served to stay alive at 4-5 and 5-6 in the fourth set before a tiebreak that had the crowd gripping their seats.

Nadal held a 5-2 lead but served a nervy double fault. Still the Spaniard carved out a championship point at 7-6 but Federer saved it with a service winner.

Nadal carved out a second match point, this time on his serve, at 8-7 with a running forehand pass. Pinned in the corner, Federer then conjured a magical backhand up the line.

When he secured the tiebreak 10-8 football-style chants echoed around court for both players.

Rain stopped play again at 2-2 in the decider and when the players returned the atmosphere crackled. Both players refused to blink as games went with serve but it was a weary Federer who wavered at 7-7.

Federer saved one match point with a fizzing backhand but Nadal would not be denied his first grand slam title away from Roland Garros, bagging victory after four hours 48 minutes of supreme sporting theatre.

Reuters Em

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