Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal forged one of the most thrilling tennis rivalries when they met for the first time in Miami 2004, dominating the rest of the field in the upcoming years. Nadal scored four straight wins over Federer at Roland Garros between 2005-08, while Roger had the upper hand in back-to-back Wimbledon finals in 2006 and 2007, extending his incredible streak on grass that had started in 2003.
Making significant progress on the fastest surface with low bounce, Nadal would reach two Wimbledon finals in the mentioned years, challenging Roger and preparing another assault in 2008 after the fourth Roland Garros crown in a row.
Nadal and Federer were the All England Club's favorites, passing six obstacles and reaching the third straight final. Since 2003, Roger had 40 consecutive wins in the cathedral of tennis, and Nadal broke that incredible streak after a memorable 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7 victory in four hours and 48 minutes!
Thus, Rafa became the first player since Bjorn Borg with a "Channel Slam," adding the fifth Major to his tally just after turning 22 and carving his path towards tennis immortals. Nadal won five points more than Federer in a thrilling battle, fending off 12 out of 13 break opportunities and earning four breaks to prevail and stand victorious in one of the most significant moments in tennis history.
Rafa stayed in touch with the five-time champion in the shortest points up to four strokes, which was crucial for his success. The Spaniard improved his initial shot to reach Roger's level and delivered incredible tennis on those break chances to suffer only one break.
Nadal moved in front in the opener's third game and survived a scare on serve at 5-4 to fend off two break chances and clinch the opener. Federer forged a 4-1 advantage in set number two before getting broken at 4-2 to bring Nadal back into contention.
Rafael Nadal ousted Roger Federer after an epic battle at Wimbledon 2008.
With momentum on his side, Rafa grabbed another break at 4-4 with a forehand winner, served for the set in the next game and repelled a break chance to move two sets to love in front and closer to the finish line.
In a manner of a true champion, Roger bounced back in sets three and four and prevailed in a tight fourth-set tie break after being 5-2 down to force a decider and gain a boost. In the final set's fifth game, the players left the court due to rain and returned half an hour later to continue the incredible encounter.
Roger created a break chance with a forehand down the line winner at 4-3, denied by Nadal's smash winner, who leveled the score at 4-4 with another forehand winner to stay alive. At 5-5, Rafa earned two break opportunities with a forehand down the line winner, failing to convert any of those or make an extra step two games later.
In the 15th game, the Spaniard seized more opportunities on the return and clinched a break after a colossal forehand error from the Swiss. At deuce at 8-7, Rafa hit a service winner and moved over the top following Roger's forehand mistake to celebrate one of his most glorious victories and write the record books.
"For me, the 2008 Wimbledon final is one of the most emotional encounters of my career. The 2007 final loss hurt a lot, and I thought I would never get another chance to fight for the title at the All England Club. I returned to the final a year later, and it was an epic one.
It had everything, and the people who saw it on TV have no idea how dark it became in the last couple of games; both Roger and I were on the limit," Rafael Nadal said.