Nadal-Federer epic the most thrilling of all the Wimbledon finals
From the Rafael Nadal-Roger Federer marathon, to Venus Williams epic encounter in 2005, Ravi Ubha unveils the five most memorable Wimbledon final matches in the Open era.
Sunday's Wimbledon final was one of those times when you call a buddy immediately after the match ends and say, "Did you see that?"
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer battled for nearly five hours, braving the conditions and each other, before the Spaniard finally ended the Swiss's reign at the All England Club. John McEnroe, a three-time Wimbledon champ, proclaimed it was the best tennis tussle he had ever seen.
Fitting, then, that we unveil the top five most memorable Wimbledon finals in the Open era. The most recent one leads the way.
1. Rafael Nadal versus Roger Federer, 2008. Nadal wins 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7
In any case, at 4 hours, 48 minutes, it turned out to be the longest men's singles final in Wimbledon history.
The two gladiators delivered a combined 149 winners, almost double the unforced error tally, and Federer served huge when he needed to, especially in the third and fourth sets, and early in the fifth.
Nadal, though, proved how tough he is mentally. Blowing two match points in the fourth-set tiebreaker surely would have sent others downhill, but the Spaniard persevered and was impregnable on his own serve in the fifth, facing just one break point.
He held serve from early in the second set onward.
Nadal ended Federer's five-year hold on the trophy and his 65-match winning streak on grass. He probably silenced detractors, too, finally claiming a major on a surface other than clay.
"Probably later on in life, I'll go, 'That was a great match,' '' Federer said.
And he would be right.
2. Bjorn Borg versus John McEnroe, 1980. Borg wins 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (16), 8-6
Getting over two match points is one thing, but recovering to win after squandering five in a tiebreaker -- perhaps the greatest in Wimbledon history -- is quite another.
Bjorg Borg, the stoic and super-fit Swede, achieved the feat in 1980, downing brash upstart John McEnroe. Chasing a fifth consecutive Wimbledon crown, Borg held set points on five separate occasions in the fourth-set 'breaker before McEnroe converted on his eighth set point to make it 18-16 and send the tussle to a fifth. To make matters worse, Borg held two match points earlier in the fourth.
The tiebreaker lasted 22 minutes and Borg would later admit he thought he had no chance of taking the fifth set.
"I have never been so disappointed on a tennis court as when I lost that fourth set,'' Borg said afterwards. "Seven match points and I failed to do it. Every time I had another match point, John came up with a great shot.''
Borg kept it together in the fifth, only dropping one point in his final six service games. McEnroe gained his revenge by beating Borg in 1981, bringing to an end his reign at the All England Club.
3. Goran Ivanisevic versus Patrick Rafter, 2001. Ivanisevic wins 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7
Rain played havoc with Wimbledon seven years ago -- should we say, more so than usual? -- and it ultimately led to one of the most memorable occasions in Grand Slam history. The men's final began on a Monday due to the precipitation, the first time that happened at Wimbledon since 1922. As a result, 10,000 tickets went on sale 2½ hours prior to the match, meaning a younger, more boisterous crowd was in attendance. And who to root for, the popular Ivanisevic, or, uh, popular Rafter?
Ivanisevic prevailed in what turned out to be the longest fifth set of a men's singles final at Wimbledon, in terms of games, at the time. In the process, he became the first men's wild card to capture a major.
Getting there was the fun part.
Ivanisevic, ranked outside the top 100 and a loser in three previous Wimbledon finals, cried, kissed the ball and jolted his left -- and serving -- arm as he tried to serve out the encounter. A service winner finally did the trick and Ivanisevic could hardly believe his Wimbledon misery was over.
"I think I'm dreaming,'' Ivanisevic said at the time. "Somebody is going to wake me up and tell me, 'Man, you didn't win.' ''
4. Venus Williams versus Lindsay Davenport, 2005. Williams wins 4-6, 7-6 (4), 9-7
Williams had to rally once more in the third, trailing 2-4, and the two-hour, 45-minute thriller was the longest Wimbledon women's final in history.
Adding to the drama, Davenport carried on despite struggling with a back injury that surfaced in the deciding set.
"Every time the chips were down for Venus, she played unbelievably,'' Davenport said.
5. Steffi Graf versus Gabriela Sabatini, 1991. Graf wins 6-4, 3-6, 8-6
Graf had something to prove, coming off a humiliating 6-0, 6-2 loss to Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the semifinal of the French Open weeks earlier and not winning a Grand Slam since the 1990 Australian Open, an age for her.
The final wasn't pretty -- Graf and fan favorite Sabatini were broken a combined 12 times in the second and third sets. However, there was plenty of drama.
Sabatini, who claimed her lone Grand Slam title by downing Graf at the U.S. Open 10 months earlier, turned things around by moving forward.
Twice she failed to serve out the encounter deep in the third set: At 6-5, 30-all, Sabatini hit a backhand volley that looked like a winner, but Graf chased it down and sent a winning reply, then broke and didn't lose another game.
It was the third of Graf's seven Wimbledon titles.
Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.
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- Bryan brothers eliminated in Aussie doubles
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
ESPN Classic will replay Rafael Nadal's epic five-set victory over Roger Federer in the men's final on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.
• Bob Bryan beats brother Mike in mixed doubles
• Garber: Nadal muscles his way to championship
• Ubha: Top five Wimbledon finals
• Harwitt: Loss a microcosm of Federer's year
• Ubha: Wimbledon men's final instant analysis
• Bodo: Nadal shows plenty of courage
Day 13 • Women | Scores
• Garber: Venus finally stands up to little sister
• Ubha: Williamses match competitive and clean
• Garber: Borg the man in the middle
• Ubha: Wimbledon women's final instant analysis
• Who will win the Wimbledon men's singles final?
• Bodo: Five reasons Nadal can win
Day 12 • Men | Scores
• Garber: Best friends set to do battle again
• Harwitt: Coach-less Federer ready for title
• Ubha: Nadal clearly in Federer's head
• Who will win the Wimbledon women's final?
Day 11 • Men | Women | Scores
• Garber: Time is now for Nadal at Wimbledon
• Ubha: Top Williams sisters moments
• Grass Stains: Williamses ready for showdown
• Tennis.com: Rafa will win Wimbledon
Day 10 • Men | Scores
• Wimbledon women's court schedule troubles WTA
• Ubha: Federer serving lights out
• Nadal blog: Happy to get by Murray
• Garber: Venus is best grass-courter of generation
• Star Watch: Safin looking confident again
Day 9 • Women | Scores
• Garber: Williams sisters crushing opponents
• Ford: Ancic hoping to take care of Federer again
• Chip and Charge: Olympics taking center stage
• Ubha: Can Murray maintain momentum Day 8 • Men | Women | Scores
• Garber: Unpredictability in women's tennis
• Grass Stains: Valiant determination from Lopez
• Star Watch: Murray electifies hometown crowd Day 7 • Ford: Midway at Wimbledon report
• Ubha: Breaking down the final 16 in each bracket
See all stories from Week 1