-EDITOR’S NOTE — Tennis history is filled with wonderful rivalries, and so many are remembered because of matchups in Wimbledon finals. The Associated Press is republishing stories about a handful of such matches while the canceled grass-court Grand Slam tournament was supposed to be played. One memorable head-to-head rivalry is Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal, who have met in nine Grand Slam title matches, an Open era-record for men. Three were at the All England Club, in 2006-08. The following story, about their third final there, was sent July 6, 2008.
By HOWARD FENDRICH
AP Tennis Writer
Rafael Nadal, grass stains on his white shirt and a Spanish flag tucked under his arm, scampered through the Centre Court stands to celebrate his first Wimbledon title with hugs and handshakes.
Roger Federer sat in his changeover chair, protected from the night’s chill by his custom-made cream cardigan with the gold “RF” on the chest. Alone with his thoughts, alone with the knowledge that he had come so close to becoming the first man since the 1880s to win a sixth consecutive championship at the All England Club.
Two points from victory, the No. 1-ranked Federer couldn’t pull it out, instead succumbing to No. 2 Nadal 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7 Sunday night in a 4-hour, 48-minute test of wills that was the longest men’s final in Wimbledon history — and quite possibly the greatest.
Even Nadal felt sympathy for Federer.