Bygones: Nadal ends Federer reign in an epic Wimbledon finale remembered for ever

Spain's Rafael Nadal lies on the court as he celebrates his win over Switzerland's Roger Federer in the men's singles final on the Centre Court at Wimbledon, Sunday, July 6, 2008. (AP Photo/Filipe Trueba,pool)
Spain's Rafael Nadal lies on the court as he celebrates his win over Switzerland's Roger Federer in the men's singles final on the Centre Court at Wimbledon, Sunday, July 6, 2008. (AP Photo/Filipe Trueba,pool)
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Almost ten years ago to this day, one of the finest encounters in the history of tennis unfolded on the sacred lawns of Wimbledon.

July 6, 2008, saw Rafael Nadal overcome Roger Federer in an epic contest to seal his maiden title at SW19.

Spain's Rafael Nadal and Switzerland's Roger Federer with their trophies in the Mens Final during the Wimbledon Championships 2008 (Picture: PA)

Spain's Rafael Nadal and Switzerland's Roger Federer with their trophies in the Mens Final during the Wimbledon Championships 2008 (Picture: PA)

The pair were meeting for the third successive year in the final, with the Swiss having come out on top in both 2006 and 2007.

But the third match between the two served up a classic with the contest eventually finishing after four hours and 48 minutes of incredible, breathtaking tennis.

Those lucky enough to have a seat on Centre Court were treated to two greats of the sport in their absolute prime.

A lengthy rain delay saw the match start slightly later than usual but when it did it was the Spaniard Nadal who took the bull by the horns.

His repertoire included some ferocious baseline shots and he took control, taking the first two sets 6-4, 6-4.

Federer was now in an unusual position. Having won five singles’ titles in succession, he was on the verge of a straight sets defeat but bounced back to lead 5-4 in the third.

A hefty rain-enforced delay did not help the Swiss but he drew on his vast supply of composure and experience to take the third on a tie-break.

With the wind now in his sails, he again took the fourth on a tie-break although he had to save not one but two Championship points.

For the third time during what was quickly becoming an unforgettable game, the heavens again opened and forced the players off court for 30 minutes.

Such interruptions could derail any normal players, but these two competitors are anything but normal.

Once the rain had stopped, the duo took the deciding set to the wire with Nadal snatching back the initiative.

The 15th game of the set finally saw Nadal break his opponent’s serve and he duly served out to secure the most memorable of victories and the first of two Wimbledon titles.

It was a match remembered by many for the sheer quality of shots executed throughout and is lauded as arguably the greatest game ever played.

Though both men have won many grand slams since this encounter – at present they have 37 major titles between them – none of their matches before or since have quite lived up to the events of this day.

It is testament to both mens’ character and self-discipline that they still sit at the top table of the sport despite Nadal’s long list of injury worries and Federer turning 37 next month.

It is quite startling that the pair haven’t met at Wimbledon since that momentous finale in 2008.

There is a distinct possibility that a reunion could occur this year, with both men in opposite sides of the draw. And you wouldn’t bet against them setting up a rendezvous again next weekend in the final, such is their quality and longevity.