Nadal Beats Federer in the Greatest Four Hours and 48 Minutes of the Year

Tosten HeathSenior Analyst IJuly 7, 2008

It was legendary. It was classic. It turned around the future of a sport. It unseated the best in the game. It made history.

It was the greatest piece of competition all year.

Tiger Woods beat the 158th-best golfer in the world. Kansas only needed one overtime to pull off the win. The Lakers didn't give Boston any competition in the first place. The Giants' win was about 60 percent luck. Big whoop.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer butted horns for almost five hours. Five long sets of arguably the greatest player of all time battling arguably the greatest clay-court player of all time. It captivated the world.

Even Mother Nature didn't want it to end. Her feeble attempts to keep the greatness going on Sunday only added to the lore of the match.

The first rain delay was Federer's perfect storm. It gave him the time to compose himself and make one of the greatest comebacks in recent memory.

The second rain delay was just an annoyance.

The darkness at the end was simply comical. Had it not been for the All England Lawn Tennis Club's white dress code, you wouldn't have been able to see the players. Which is funny, because even with the pearly clothes shining vaguely through the night, you still couldn't believe your eyes.

Was Federer actually about to lose? At Wimbledon? To a clay-court player?

Who was this sweaty, stringy haired Spaniard about to stop Roger from doing something no one had seen since the 1880s? This Rafa fellow was only supposed to be good on the red surface!

A day later and questions are still flying.

Is Federer done? Is Nadal now the best in the game? How does this affect Roger's place among the all-time greats?

Questions keep coming in from fans, and what Federer and Nadal did Sunday night in London gave tennis a whole lot more of them. Whether the match was the greatest or not is debatable, but what's not is the fact that it helped out a sport more than any other athletic event in years.

Federer may or may not be on the decline, but a rivalry is definitely on the rise.

And so is tennis.