2) Wimbledon 2008 final: 4th set tiebreak
It is just serendipitous and matching that the two greatest tie-breaks in tennis history involve the greatest tennis player ever. This time, we write about the greatest tie-break ever, deemed so by the most authoritative tennis commentators and analysts. People say that it is moments that matter, not any length of time. It is also moments that decide - hence the very reality of decisive points and inflexion moments (whatever you want to call it). The 2008 Wimbledon tie-break is one great proof that the moment is the master. It is overall a much less intense and breath-taking tie-break as compared to the second-set tiebreak of the 2015 Wimbledon final (the subject of our last blog article), however its greatness lies in the greatest pair of back-to-back shots in tennis history - a moment which lasted slightly less than a minute and a half.
Similar to the tie-break of the previous post, Federer was in an incredibly dire and pressurising situation. He was two sets down in a Wimbledon final against a supposed clay-only specialist and 22-year old upstart. Imagine the stress that Federer must have been under, holding on to his long life at Wimbledon by a razor-thin margin when only two or three hours ago he had the weight of history behind him - 5 consecutive Wimbledon titles! Again in an eerie parallel to the previously featured tie-break, the first-half of the tie-break went ominous for Roger Federer when he went 5-2 down with an uncharacteristically misaimed backhand. The next two points were on Nadal's serve, so it was quite easy theoretically for Nadal to finish off the point. But it was time for Nadal to be pressured, and you have a double fault, followed by a more-than-usually languid backhand from the Spaniard, allowing Federer claw back into the match. He not only clawed back but earned himself a set point at 6-5, which was again wasted by a terribly misaimed shot (this time on the forehand). This was then followed shortly after by championship point for Nadal at 7-6, which was saved by an unreturned serve from Federer. What followed shortly after will enter and stay within the annals of tennis forever.
The first point At 7-7, Federer serves and then hits a forehand down Nadal's backhand which put him quite off-balanced. The weak shot that followed was no doubt a result of the unbalanced position of Nadal as he did that backhand return. The weak shot was then followed by an approach shot on the forehand side by Federer down Nadal's forehand side. Although we believed Federer should have done more with it (taking it slightly slower and perhaps wrong-footing Nadal), it was entirely logical since it appeared that Nadal will not be able to make the run to the other end of the court given the position in which he was in at the time of Federer contacting the ball. But this is Nadal, and he overcomes probabilities. He hits a down-the-line on-the-run forehand which passes Federer on the forehand, to set up championship point. A magnificent passing shot and a moment to make that in! But what makes this moment THE MOMENT in tennis is this shot that followed immediately after that, which also makes this tie-break the greatest ever in tennis (see the video below)
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