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Rafael Nadal won an epic against Roger Federer in 2008. The longest, and widely regarded to be the best, final in Wimbledon history
Rafael Nadal won an epic against Roger Federer in 2008. The longest, and widely regarded to be the best, final in Wimbledon history

Best Wimbledon Finals

Court vs King 1970          

14-12, 11-9         

In an era before tiebreaks, a tennis player had to win by two clear games to earn the set and when two world class players face off, it can often lead to long and absorbing contests. An incredible 46 games were played in just two sets as two legends of the game collided in 1970.

Margaret Court had won both the Australian and French Open coming into Wimbledon but in truth, both women were the walking wounded. Court had an ankle problem whilst Billie Jean King had a knee aliment which required surgery almost a month later. For both to play for that long and at such a high standard of play was incredible. King saved a total of three match points in the final set as Court eventually wore her down to take the match and her sixth major of the Open era and 19th overall. But it was this match that really established King as a force on the world stage which proved crucial two years later in her ‘Battle of the Sexes’.

Borg vs McEnroe 1980   

1-6, 7-5,6-3,6-7,8-6

This was a match between two players that were almost complete opposites to each other that gelled together perfectly one of the greatest tennis matches in history. On one side of the court stood the rebel of the game, the fiery American John McEnroe. On the other side stood the glamorous iceman, Bjorn Borg. It was the classic serve and volleyer against a baseliner and up to now, the baseliner had ruled supreme winning the last four Wimbledon titles.

McEnroe was determined to end the Swede’s dominance on court but it was clear who the fans on Centre Court where behind when the American was booed onto court. Borg took a two sets to one lead going into the fourth set. Borg looked to be in control with two match points but McEnroe survived long enough to force the set into a tie-break and what followed was pure sporting theatre.

McEnroe eventually prevailed after a 34 minute tiebreak that lasted five minutes less than the entire first set, 18-16. It is still regarded as the greatest tiebreak in the history of the sport and in terms of pure drama almost nothing has matched it in the whole of sport.

Despite winning that marathon breaker, McEnroe couldn’t grind down the indomitable Swede who refused to wilt and resisted the oncoming storm of McEnroe’s serves. Eventually Borg prevailed 8-6 in the final set to win his fifth straight Wimbledon title in a match that until very recently many thought was the best of all time.

Rafter vs Ivanisevic  2001             

6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7

A universal agreement in the world of sport is that atmosphere defines an event. When it comes to the Wimbledon finals however, 8,000 reserved middle aged tennis fans don’t often create a wild fever pitch noise – just ask Andy Murray in 2012. In 2001 though for the first time in history, Wimbledon turned up the volume all the way to 11.

Rafter had brought a traditionally loud Aussie contingent with him all the way to the final meaning there were yellow shirts dotted around all over Centre Court amongst the usual grey shirts and ties. Ivanisevic had been the public’s darling during his miraculous wildcard run to the final including a five set win over Tim Henman. Because rain had delayed the final until Monday, 10,000 campers queued up for three miles to get a seat on Centre Court meaning the Croatian had his own cheerleading sections to combat the Australians.

What followed was a match filled with not just great tennis which see-sawed one way and the other but football style chants after almost every point.  Eventually the giant Croat served his way to victory in the 16th game of the final set having three match points saved to become the first wildcard in history to win the main draw title at Wimbledon on People’s Monday.

Davenport vs Williams 2005        

4-6, 7-6, 9-7

In a battle of the Americans who were having a renaissance in terms of their careers, Venus Williams’ proved why she is regarded as one of the best grass court players of all time in the women’s game. Lindsay Davenport hadn’t won a Grand Slam in five years but was still ranked number one coming into the final whilst Williams had slipped to 14th in the rankings due to injuries. In the end it was Williams who prevailed although not without a bit of luck in the longest women’s final in Wimbledon history.

Davenport led 4-2, 40-15 in the third set after some great tennis from both players but soon afterwards succumbed to a back injury and was forced off for treatment. Not long after Davenport returned, she had a match point at 4-5 on Williams' serve but the tall powerful server unleashed a blistering backhand down the line to carry on the match.

Williams outlasted the ailing number one in the end and took the final set 9-7 to take her third Wimbledon crown and her third straight victory over Davenport in Grand Slam finals.

Federer vs Nadal 2008                  

6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7

Many felt that Borg vs McEnroe would never be topped as the greatest match ever at Wimbledon. That was before Rafael Nadal’s five set victory over the defending champion Roger Federer in 2008. Both men had been engaged in a thrilling rivalry over the past three years. Nadal had the upper hand on clay whilst Federer had beat Nadal in the last two Wimbledon finals and the majority of matches on ‘faster courts’. In 2008 though, Nadal had the upper hand thrashing Federer in the French Open just a month earlier. This was the time for the Spaniard to step up against the King.

In what became the longest Wimbledon final in history at 4 hours and 48 minutes, the two gladiators produced a standard of tennis that may never be seen again. Constantly interrupted by rain, the match fluctuated back and forth from start to finish. Nadal had two match points in a fourth set tiebreak that rivalled Borg and McEnroe’s in 1980 for drama and quality but Federer refused to let his title slip away and levelled the match at two sets all.

After yet another disruption from rain and playing in near darkness, Nadal’s ultimate defence outlasted the relentless forehand winners from Federer. The Spaniard had conceded just 27 unforced errors in the entire match and thoroughly deserved his maiden Wimbledon title. But it was the sustained brilliance and intensity of the match over the gruelling five sets that will forever live on in the minds of tennis fans.

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