Sunday, July 06, 2008

Beginning of an Era

Day 13. Lucking number thirteen. Four hours and forty-eight minutes. Third time the charm. Twice delayed by rain. Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7 to claim his first Wimbledon crown.

The longest Wimbledon final in history. The first Spaniard to win Wimbledon in the Open Era. The first Spaniard to win Wimbledon since Manuel "Manolo" Martinez Santana in 1966. The first player to win Roland Garros and Wimbledon back-to-back since Bjorn Borg in 1980. The first Mallorcan to win Wimbledon in history.

The lefty dethrones the king.

1981 redux.

Rafa reigns.

Raja weeps.


I'll write more about this historic, greatest moment later, but I've got a massage to give.

Meantime, check the Open Thread for our often-times cryptic comments about the match as it happened.


cate said...

Rafa wept too. It was so touching.

(Now, I dread the inevitable "Roger is OVER" posts coming from EVERYWHERE, wherein everybody discredits his previous achievements.)

The Rafa fan in me is so happy for him. He deserved this win after fighting point per point.

The Roger fan is me is slightly disappointed but I understand that the man has 5 already.

Both were chasing history and one got there. Yet, they do have different pressures working against them. Rafa was chasing the first title; Roger was chasing the 6th. BOTH were to make history, no matter the outcome.

Either way, GREAT display of TENNIS went on tonight. Nobody can say the other played badly because both did VERY GOOD. (But some will still say that Roger played crap.) That match is history in itself.

ndn5898 said...

Great exhilirating is not over it is just the beginning...Congrats to Rafa I am really proud of him...I already knew that Roger was great, but he showed a truly different dimension to his greatness... Wow!!

cate said...

Yeah, he hung in there as long as he could, Roger. I hope he gets respect points for that.

Indranni said...

Hi all

Have been reading and enjoying your blog for a while now, was moved to tears by the match.

It was so hard (I had a pit in my stomach) to watch those championship points where Rafa just couldn't finish it off, and so inspiring to see the way Roger battled back and then the way they matched each other right at the finish. As Rafa was serving for the championship point, when the announcer said "he's one point away from the championship" all I could think was that the match was so close...Roger was at the same time only 3 points away. Amazing stuff.

I can't imagine what emotions Roger, Rafa and their families must have been feeling. I could hardly watch it myself.

They acquitted themselves magnificently I thought, and whatever else has been said about either of them, I couldn't have imagined them being more gracious to each other at the end than they were today. Good sportsmanship makes me teary-eyed every time.

Karen said...

As an ardent Roger fan I am extremely proud of his performance today. He played very well but his opponent was just 1/10 better than him today. As Roger says it hurts, but you live to fight another day. Congrats to Rafa. He played his heart out and held firm during the part of the match where mentality came into play. The heights of great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight but they while their companions wept soared upwards through the night. Roger will be back and this is really good for tennis. My heart aches right now for Roger but he will recover just as how I will recover from this.

Helen W said...

An amazing, emotionally-powerful display, as so many have found so many different words to say.

It really looked to me like Roger was completely unaffected by his FO drubbing. He did a great job of putting it completely out of his mind.

Beth said...

Rafa deserved this win. Federer played great but Rafa just has nerves of steel and was just that little bit better. I think I had 15 coronaries watching this match but can finally breath now. Vamos Rafa!

rabbit said...

Congrats to Rafa! Both displayed some beautiful tennis today; it was well worth the pain I went through in watching the match. But as Karen said, Rafa was a bit more consistent at the end and deserved it :(

I hope though the match quells any doubt that Roger is not mentally strong or is declining. He showed enormous courage, grit and great play today to bring the match back to five sets. But as Roger himself commented, he paid the price for losing the first two sets. (Losing the second set was unpardonable.) My heart says Roger will be back next year.

Also, both players and their camps were very respectful of each other till the end. It was touching to see Roger's dad, mom and Mirka congratulate Rafa when he came up to the box, and equally so when later in the interview with McEnroe, Rafa complimented Roger's incredible backhand passing shot at championship point in the fourth set.

And finally speaking of McEnroe, I thought he was very fair in his commentating today. His interviews with Roger and Rafa post-match were done really well. The worst was Ted Robinson. He seemed to me to be constantly sniping at Federer. Even at the end, he claimed that Roger was unusual in making a lap as a runner-up and this was somehow pompous. Didn't Rafa do the same last year after losing? I just can't stand listening to the guy.

Karen said...

rabbit,I too was a bit amazed when he said that about the runner up doing the walk because I know I saw Rafa make the walk with Roger on 2 occassions and they always slap each others hands when they are passing each other and they usually smile as well - this year was no different ted robinson, brad gilbert are 2 idoits liked how JMac dealt with both Roger and Rafa, especially Roger, as you could see that this hurt more than anything else. Oh well, he lives to fight another day. I am just glad Venus won

Nic said...

I believe Rafa is in good stead to crack the Grand Slam that has painfully eluded Roger. This would undoubtedly seal his reputation as the best all-surface champion since Bjorn Borg (and the most gracious sportsman!)
This final felt just like the Borg/McEnroe 1981 when Mac finally disrupted Borg's supremacy (though Nadal's fitness, demeanor and game are more akin to Borg...)
I really enjoy your blog Craig - thanks!

Craig Hickman said...

Thanks, nic. Glad to see you here!

(Bjorn Borg never won on all surfaces, though.)

Helen W said...

rabbit, ditto on your assessment of Ted Robinson. His inane burbling, even as points were being played, was beyond annoying. Unlike JMac, he has not one scintilla of insight to add -- when will NBC finally deep six him.

PeytonAllen said...

Rabbit I think Robinson was just trying to highlight how the crowd was in awe of both men. Didn't see it as a snipe at Fed.

I've ripped Fed for a year for dressing up for the ceremony after he won last year. No more. To his credit, the man dressed up for the Runners-up trophy as well.

Greatest match I've ever seen. Both men played so well. I love Karen for being a fan, but Karen your comment in the previous post/thread about "rafa just doing his thing" in the first two sets doesn't really tell the story. Nadal is just a monster. Everything his fans in this blog have said he's had to do to improve and win on a fast surface he's done really over the two months.

Increased depth in his returns and ground strokes. More aggression when he has a play, and finally a better serve. Nadal may never hit 15 aces in a big match, but he out served Roger today.

Mac giving Fed a hug, nearly bringing a sob from Fed was classic. You did feel bad for Fed. He tried so hard. Most of the time he's class. But, somebody had to lose. But both of them were going to sob.

Rafa played better. He deserved to win. If he had lost after losing that 4th set breaker, I would have been sick, can't imagine how he would've felt.

I thought it was over at 5-2 in the 4th set breaker. A choke, but after the choke he didn't turn back. Fed played brilliantly to save the MP's.

Roger's serve was the only thing really keeping him in the match. He got on a streak after the first rain delay and served too well in the 3rd set tiebreaker. Mid-way through the 4th his service games were there for the taking, but he came up with big serves when needed for literally a set and a half. 0-30 three big serves, etc.

The cajons by Nadal to keep fighting after he choked the 4th set. When facing a break point in the 5th, just wearing Roger down with darkness coming. He earned that one.

I can't think of anything else to say. The Roger is done talk can be saved for another day, but it's clear he's no longer the best player in the world.

And who could have seen this coming? In the fall Nadal was waxed by Roger and then you stories coming from Rafa's doctor that says his foot is damaged and career nearly over. Then Uncle Toni rebuttles.

He gets blown off the Aussie Open court.

And now...the light switch has come on, Nadal entered his prime years.

Beating hard court heart aches in Jo Willie and Blake, and then boom! He's here.

i hope he doesn't play a silly, meaningless clay court event before the TMS this summer. He deserves/needs a 3-4 week break.

For both men we move to New York, Fed's last shred of dominance. And Rafa looks to solve the next puzzle.

Again, for those saying he's the GOAT, need to start considering he's not the greatest of his era.

Nic said...

Borg would consistently reach the hard-court finals though. But when he'd lose at the US Open, he never bothered showing up for the Aussie open (it was relatively minor in those days...)

Pamela said...

This match was definitely one for the fans, the commentators, the bloggers, the haters, the everything and everyone. I think my heart stopped at least twice in that match, but I am beyond thrilled that Rafa pulled it out and it was so touching to see just how much it meant to him.

Even with all of that, I'm not ready for Fed to go a whole year without a slam. That just doesn't "feel" right to me.

Craig Hickman said...

I almost can't wait to write another post about this final, but I will because I have to organize so many thoughts.

I'll probably end up saying nothing at all, but I'm going to try because today was simply huge.

peytonallen, as always, thanks for your comment. I thank you all, of course, but peyton only comes around after huge results and always provides great food for thought.

Karen said...

peyton when i say rafa does his thing it is not to cast any doubt on his play - he kept at it. lesser men would have folded but he did not 0 he kept doing what he was supposed to do in these situations - kudos to fed as well for coming back from 2 sets to loe down and saving 3 match points - anyone who says that fed does not have the mental capacity to fight for the big wins needs to see this match . i will never write off fed i think he has earned the right to be called great and i dont think that the fact that he has lost here at wimbledon should portend as his demise he had to lose at some point in time just as how rafa will eventually lose at roland garros 0 this has been a very dark period for fed in terms of his tennis but the upside is that he can only go up from here

Capital Peach said...

This match was incredible! Just incredible!! I'm so excited for Nadal because he is my favorite men's player, PERIOD!!! The guy is just unbelievable. When he plays, I feel like I'm right there with him. It's never a dull moment. Even his complete domination of Federer at the French this year was entertaining, because he was just flawless. While Roger Federer is undoubtedly one of the most gifted players to play the sport, he just bores my socks off. That is unless he's playing Rafa... However after today, I have new respect for the world's number 1, becuase even after he won the third set breaker, I believed Nadal would close it out in the fourth. But Federer stuck around and the two of them produced some phenomenal tennis. As a fan, I can only be appreciative of what I witnessed today, even if I did almost have a few heart attacks. Congratulations to Federer for a great match.
And Double Congratulations to RAFA, the new Wimbledon champ!! Can anyone say Grand Slam??!!

oddman said...

Hi all, late to the party, but who cares? Rafa is Wimbledon Champion in 2008! Rafa - Superman - gutted out the win!

Wow! I'm pretty much speechless right now - haven't even had time to watch any of my taped portions of this epic final - but your comments here tell me lots.

I'm just so happy for my Rafito! No more labels of 'dirtballer', 'one-surface wonder', 'claycourt specialist' - the most prestigious title of them all now belongs to the Spaniard Rafael Nadal. He of the Iron Will.

I'm just so utterly satisfied right now.

PeytonAllen said...

Thanks Craig. You should write more. The match deserves it.

Someone also took a swipe at Fed's family not applauding good shots, and then a bit about "entitlement, vs. blah blah." That's unfair. Fed's dad was nearly as happy for Rafa as his own family was at the end. Look at how he cheers for Rafa when Nadal walks through the crowd. Even Mirka, as heartbroken as Fed, reached up and gave him a polite pat on the back of the leg.

The mutual respect between families and camps is a nice change from Novak's mouth and Family and Fed telling people to "be quiet okay?" I mean, that's good for tennis too believe it or not, but only Rafa/Roger and the respect between them has transcended this rivalry past Borg/Mac.

I can't see Fed NOT winning two more majors, but now that 3rd one for the record probably has Pete thinking (though Sampras has been nothing but gracious with the impending breakage of his record.)

I've said all year Fed is king until he loses in London or New York. Now, we have a new ball game.

Is he finished? No, but much 1980 when Mac was turned away then came back to send a message to Bjorn, Fed got the same message today. His younger rival has come of age. And while that doesn't mean Fed won't ever beat him again, or can never win a major again, it does mean his best against Nadal may never again be good enough.

For Rafa, have we seen a champion let alone player improve so much?

Fed had to improve his backhand and serve (Agassi's observations on Fed becoming the Fed we all know.). Pete had to decide he hated losing and cared enough before taking off. Andre needed a tennis brain.

Rafa strengthened his backhand, serve, he changed the where he played the game. How many players LIKE to change their court positioning? Not many. Just ask Roddick. Just ask Richard Gasquet.

That Nadal has been such an apt student, that he has wanted to learn, to change, to be a champion is why this moment is so big. He fought to be better, to not just be a clay court wonder and because of it, the Rafael Nadal era may be better than the one that preceded it.

He may not play with the grace of Fed, but he is no less an artist. He just paints with a different brush.

tennisguyaz said...

As a lurker who has been reading your wonderful site for a while and never posted, today I will. I must be the only tennis fan out there who was not impressed, sorry, Nadal is in Roger's head more than anything else for me, to the point he can't get a break when he has 13 chances?? The only question I have is will Roger get past Pistol Pete? I don't think he will. Is it the beginning of the end of the era of beautiful tennis that Roger bought? I think it sadly is and now it will be fist pumps and in your face antics along with biting the trophy, ugh. A sad day for the sport.

Excellent blog with great points of view, thanks, and, back to lurker.

cate said...

The doubts on Roger equalling/suprassing Sampras is uncalled for. I mean, how many YEARS did Sampras stamp his record? Did he do it consecutively? No. His most consecutive wins on Wimbledon was 4, one less than Roger's. There is still one more Slam today, and four more next year, minus the pressure of that darn Olympic games.

Like Rafa said himself, Roger deserves this as much as he does. I agree. But I also agree with the other thing he said, Roger has 5 and he only has 1 so far. Every tennis player wants to win Wimbledon and Roger won it five times. If that is not a testament to his talent, I don't know what is.

Roger might not be the best-ever today but he'll go down in history as one of the best. Borg didn't care about the Australian Open, reaching only the 4th round but people still look up to him as one of the best.

The incredible display of tennis we all witnessed in the Final wouldn't be as great if the actors in it were not Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. As Roger said, they lived up to expectations of the media and the fans. Could this be the end for Roger (or simply a spell)? Beginning for Rafa (although I think he has been there always haha)? Could be. I just want to be here when it happens because anything these two guys do make history.

Tennisfan said...

I am waiting for your post about this final, Craig. Would you please, please be kind to Roger for his fans' sake?

Craig Hickman said...

tennisfan, you're funny.

cate said...

But seriously, what is there to criticize in Roger's game last night? He fought valiantly. Honestly, if anything, he proved that he still has it -- albeit not enough against Rafa.

paula said...

Great post on this amazing, historical final. My guest blogger, Rick Rock, a few weeks ago wrote very similiar things about Rafa's game (check out the comments, where he compares him to Michael Jordan) as Peytonallen. He also admits to, and apologizes, for badmouthing Fed in the post, but he was just tired of the media constantly calling Fed an artist and calling Rafa "an anthlete". Hwe actually likes Fed, too.

BUT- finally, hopefully, people will stop refering to Rafa in such simplisitic terms.
Here's the post: