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The best tennis match of all time?

by Sonny (U3877544) 06 July 2008
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I can't remember a better one. And looking back the rain breaks were timed perfectly - the first to let Federer find his game and the second poised at all square 2-2, 2-2 and 40-40, perfect for a quick breather before the climax. And then after the match the atmosphere with all the flash lights was like nothing before on Centre Court.

I can't ever remember seeing two champions like that hitting so many quality shots under the most extreme pressure. So many shots that would have been winners against every other player came back across the net with interest. The Nadal forehand down the line at 7-7 in the 4th set tie breaker was incredible - I said at the time that if he won the next point that shot would be replayed over and over till everyone in the land had seen it but then Federer went and equalled it in the very next point.

Federer fans should definitely not be disheartened, he's got plenty more big wins to come and showed what a true champion he really is. But you've gotta hand it to Nadal in coming back from losing the 4th set and serving second in the 5th which was a huge disadvantage psychologically in the circumstances. I strongly fancied Federer to win the last set but Nadal showed everyone that there's more than one champion in the game today.

So finely balanced, so evenly matched and such an important match in the context of their rivalry in tennis history. That was the best tennis match I've ever seen in my life.

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posted Jul 9, 2008

Federer and Nadal are probably playing consistently higher quality tennis than anyone has played before. Add to that the fact they both had the guts and resolve to re-produce tennis that got better and better as the match went on in the most important match in the tennis calendar, that is watched by millions around the years. Yes, there were mistakes (remember one or two awful volleys from McEnroe in the 1980 tiebreak?), but they only added to the drama. And for once the rain didn't detract, but if anything added to the narrative. What do you have - unquestionably the best match of tennis ever played.
The style of the two players is mostly to stand at the back slogging out ground strokes. This is because although Roger knows in his heart he needs to attack the net more to beat Nadal, he really doesnt have the natural ability to execute such a plan.
Even when he came in and won most of the points doing it, you can see by his movements that he rarely gets a good net position, often he is mid court and struggling to get there. This is due to his lack of confidence in slicing the ball, a shot that when hit properly moving forward allows you to move forward faster than the huge movement required to execute his preferred top spin. The other advantage being the slice stays low and is harder to hit a passing shot against.
So the illusion is that the standard is high, whereas a great net player like MC Enroe, Edberg, Sampras, or even Pat Cash at his best would fluster Nadal a lot more on grass.
This match was similar to some of the Lendl Wilander encounters where you are amazed at the sheer power and long rallies the players are producing. However, the number of mistakes made, particularly by Federer, do not add up to it being a particularly high standard.
The match was exciting nonetheless, because very rarely does it go to 5 sets, and in the darkness at the end you felt either player could still pinch it.
Once again, the number of times Roger failed to return even second serves of Nadal at key moments make you wonder whether he did not have the belief in winning this match.
There is more quality in the past finals at Wimbledon where superb serve volley exponents have competed. Those amazing passing shots that each player made "one" of, were made in their droves by the likes of Bjorn Borg, who even had the audacity to hit top spin lobs that came down onto the baseline with incredible regularity.

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posted Jul 9, 2008

Overall mens tennis is going thru a bit of a lull right now. The top two, Nadal and Federer are both high quality, but the players beneath them are really only battlers. This tends to explain how both finalists had relatively easy cake walks into the final. Roger himself only played 9 hours of tennis before the final.
This probably helps to explain why his timing was strangely out during this match, but also helps to understand how the players had so much energy to play a long match.
The gusty wind also would account for the high number of errors made particularly by Federer. The rivalry between these two seems likely to continue for some time to come, with no real contenders to the top in sight.
I look forward to the next encounter, and hope that Roger gets the advice of John Newcombe, who explained brilliantly how Roger could have won with some different tactics.

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posted Jul 9, 2008

Some greats posts barrymanulow applause
I would not even give Roger the benefit of the doubt regarding the windy conditions. It was the same for both of them and in the womens final, which was very windy, once the ball was in play they produced an excellent product.

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posted Jul 9, 2008

I beg to differ.

Nearly every point you make in your assessment of the match is wrong.

* Federer does have the natural ability to serve and volley, he beat Sampras that way a few years ago. The reason he no longer does so is because the grass is slower and higher bouncing than it used to be so serve and volley is less successful

* Nadal hits the ball harder than anyone so is able to catch Federer out of position. His speed and phenomenal court coverage make serve-volleying a high risk approach.

* Sliced approach shots donít work in the modern game. It doesnít matter how low the ball stays. The larger (and hence slower) balls coupled with racket and stringing advances which increase the size of the sweet spot enable Nadal to hit winners off sliced shots.

* McEnroe, Edberg and Sampras would have beaten Nadal on the grass courts which prevailed when they were at their peak; on todayís grass only Sampras would have stood a chance. The game really has changed that much.

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posted Jul 10, 2008

without doubt...most exciting match i have ever seen...the quality was amazing...and to say that it was very windy and with all the rain was an absolute fantastic display from both players...but for me nadal desserves it...he has put so much time and effort into improving on grass...and it shows..well done rafa...this man will create history...and i dont just mean in the french open...which i think rafa will win at least the next 5 of...IF he stays fit.
But give credit to roger for showing his champion spirit...fighting back to make it debatable for best ever tennis match...but im afraid we have a new number 1 on the cards!

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posted Jul 14, 2008

Brilliant post SportsRep, very good insights.

Why did Wimbledon makes the courts slower? Was it simply because there was a consensus that the rallies were too short?

Whatever the reason, if the courts have really slowed that much I don't know why they don't go the whole hog and just rip the grass up and lay a bit of clay down instead!!!

As for the elevation of Nadal to almost god-like status by certain media and fans, as I said in an earlier post it speaks volumes for Federer that he pushed Nadal all the way despite being somewhat out of sorts.

Nadal is beatable, but the key is taking your chances against him, which Federer didn't do. If Federer analysed his stats, he'd see that in the Wimbledon final and also his first two finals against Nadal at Roland Garros he had loads of break points in the match and didn't take his chances. Frankly, he choked on the big points.

To see how to beat Nadal, all one has to do it watch his match against Tsonga in Oz earlier this year!

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comment by jonhan (U1662748)

posted Jul 14, 2008

I don't rate it as the best for the simple reason that Federer was clinging on throughout and hoping to sneak it, rather than actually making the viewer (and himself) believe he could do it.

Borg v Mcenroe in 1980 was not like this - this really was a case of mentally strong athletes refusing to lose, and as a viewer you were totally engrossed in that battle, totally unable to pick a winner.

Borg reversing 0-30 on his serve in the 5th, after losing 7 or so match points, then beefing up his own serve throughout the final set, was incredible viewing.

Simply, that final had true and utter tension throughout. Even as a Federer fan, I didn't really feel he was winning or would win - Federer does, as Bunchhypea says above, play tight or even choke on break points against Nadal.

It just didn't have that 'who on earth is going to win' feel about it to be a truly great final.

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comment by Sonny (U3877544)

posted Jul 14, 2008

Well believe me if you were a Nadal fan watching that match as soon at it got to 2-1 in sets you would have been convinced Federer was going to go all the way.

I've since seen a bit of Borg v McEnroe and even though I would have rated the best of all time before this years final it's still easy to look through nostalgia tainted lenses. There were errors in that match. And the main point being that in this match Federers errors were due to pressure applied by Nadal. Federer didn't crumble. If you think Federer crumbled I suggest you watch the match again and see how many times at crucial moments he pulled off a fantastic winner or serve. Bloody hundreds that's how many.

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posted Jul 14, 2008

Didn't know who was going to win?! In my house, in that final set the odds were on Federer: a) because he had the momentum; b) he was serving first; and c) he's Roger Federer! Granted, as the set went on, Nadal looked the more likely. But once or even twice the Fed had Rafa 30-30 on his serve. Eight days on, that match still lives on...

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comment by jonhan (U1662748)

posted Jul 15, 2008

Oneball and Bewlaybros,

You make fine comments and I take your points.

I agree that as I was but a kid when Borg played Mac that perhaps the match meant even more, or was read differently.

BUT....I still find it difficult to accept Federer does not tighten up against Nadal when it REALLY matters.

He put two very soft returns into the net at some extremely important points ( the same returns made by Roddick, who admitted such returns were down to choking ), and rarely played aggressively on break points - as opposed to Nadal.

He just could not pull away in the 5th, despite the momentum and being a serve up.

Yes, he does and did fire many aces when down - but could that be it is because he then - finally - relaxes and goes for it?

Likewise, the Fed v Nad tiebreak compared to Borg v Mac says a lot, methinks.

Borg v Mac really was a battle to the death, with neither giving an inch. Incredible mental strength.

Federer had lost that tiebreak, had given up the match - Nadal got tight and let him back in.

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