Sunday, July 6, 2008

Nadal Ends Federer's Streak- Wins Wimbledon

Today, Rafael Nadal of Spain, beat Roger Federer of Switzerland in one of the most amazing sporting events I have ever seen. It was an epic battle, the longest Wimbledon Men's final EVER at 4 hours 48 minutes. It didn't end until 4:15 EST (started at 9 AM....there were 2 rain delays).

The match itself was extremely intense. It was filled with drama. The last 3 sets all went to either tie-breakers or were extended (last set goes until someone wins by 2) after Nadal took an early 2 set lead. I hope many of you got to see it today. If you haven't...don't fret. ESPN Classic will be showing this "Instant Classic" at 7 PM Monday night. Aside from it being such a brilliantly played, intense, and exciting match, the drama was heightened even more by the story of these two giants entering this final match.

Consider these facts:

1. Federer had won FIVE straight Wimbledon titles, and won 40 straight matches at Wimbledon.
2. Federer had not lost ONE SET this entire tournament.

3. Nadal had lost the last 2 Wimbledon finals to Federer.

4. Despite Nadal's domination of Federer on clay, and his 4 French Open titles, Nadal had never beaten Federer in a major tournament except for the French.

5. Coming into the match, Federer has been ranked #1 in the ATP rankings for 231 consecutive weeks. Nadal has been ranked #2 for 154 weeks.

6. Nadal became the first to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year since 1980 (Borg).

The match certainly lived up to the hype and beyond. It was like Maximus vs. Commodus in the movie Gladiator. It was like Achilles vs. Hector in the movie Troy.

It had me thinking about the 10 best sports finals I have ever seen. Please add or argue with some of the choices on this list in the comments section. (they are not ranked in order)

1. Nadal defeats Federer, 2008 Wimbledon Final

2. NY Giants defeat the undefeated NE Patriots, Super Bowl XLII. The prologue to this game again contributed significantly to the greatness of this game. The Patriots were on the verge of an undeprecedented, historical undefeated season. The Giants were truly "David", who had been given little chance to win after a tumultuous season. However, sans Tiki Barber, and in Michael Strahan's final game, the G-Men shut down the mightly Patriots offense and won on one of the most dramatic drives in Super Bowl history.

3. Boston Red Sox defeat NY Yankees, 2004 AL Championship Series. Again, what a storyline entering this playoff series. The Red Sox had been without a World Series title in 86 years, while the Yankees had 26 World Series titles. The Red Sox had lost a bitterly contested playoff series in 2003 to the Yankees, that culminated with an 11th inning homerun by Aaron Boone, of all people, to put the final nail in the Sox that year. However, the 2004 series was magical for the Sox, as they battled back from a 3-0 deficit to win the final 4 games. Games 4, 5, and 6 were absolute classics, as game 4 and 5 were the 2 longest in ACLS history, going into the 12th and 14th innnings, respectively. Both wins involved blown saves by the best closer in history, Mariano Rivera. Game 6 was the Schilling "bloody sock" game. Game 7 was a blow-out, but occurred in the "House that Ruth Built", finally ending the Curse of the Bambino.

4. Villanova Wildcats defeat the Georgetown Hoyas, 1985 NCAA Mens College BB Championship. This was another David vs. Goliath match-up. The 8th seeded Wildcats shot 78.6% from the field, shut down the mighty Patrick Ewing, and pulled off one of the greatest upsets in NCAA history. I still remember little Rollie Massimino being mobbed in jubilation by his much taller teammates as time expired.

5. Texas Longhorns defeat USC Trojans, 2006 BSC Championship. There was no David vs. Goliath was Goliath vs. Goliath. The Trojans had won 34 striaght games and were going for their 3rd straight NCAA title. The Trojans had the exhilarating Reggie Bush. The Longhorns had won 20 straight and had the powerful quarterback Vince Young. The play was incredible, and the ending was a thriller, with Texas pulling it out in a shootout, 41-38.

6. NY Mets defeat Boston Red Sox, 1986 World Series. The Mets had just finished pulling out a dramatic 6 game series with the Houston Astros, that including 3 extra-inning nailbiters, including the final game that went 16 innings. The Red Sox had just defeated the Angels after being one strike away from being eliminated in Game 5 on a dramatic home run by Dave Henderson to tie the game and send it into extra innings. The Red Sox came in to the WS looking for their first title since 1918. This series makes my list primarily for Game 6. I've outlined the drama of this game before on this blog here, so I won't do it again.

7. Boise State defeats Oklahoma Sooners, 2007 Fiesta Bowl. OK, this wasn't for the BSC Championship, but the game itself was probably the most dramatic college FB games I've ever seen. Boise St went into the 4th quarter with a 28-17 lead. Oklahoma scored 11 points (FG and TD + 2pt conversion) to tie the game with 1:26 left in 4th qtr. Boise St comes out to try to march down the field for a FG, and their QB gets picked-off, and the Sooner DB returns it for a 33 yd interception TD return. Game over, right? Wrong! On 4th and 18, down 7 points, Boise St complete a 50 yard "hook-and-ladder play" to tie the game with 7 seconds left. The games goes to OT, and Adrian Peterson takes the 1st handoff and races 25 yards for a go-ahead TD. Boise St, needing a TD to tie, gets a TD, and decides to go for the 2 pt conversion. They run a "Statue of Liberty" play for the 2 point conversion. Unbelievable.

I'm going to stop here for now...I will try to add 3 more games to this list. Please provide your suggestions.


Will said...

Steve - like a fool I mistook McEnroe for Al Roker (separated at birth?) and tuned out with the second rain delay to actually go out and interact with other humans. They all but guaranteed this match wouldn't finish today. Guess I'll have to tune into the instant classic. Nice list. I'll have to ponder some others.

Cocameister said...

Just watching ESPN. Bud Collins, who's about 90 years old now (but still has his wits about him), just said he was he BEST final he's ever seen (better than the previous Borg-McEnroe matchups). He makes the point that these guys hit the ball so much harder than the previous guys. He is absolutely right. Watching clips of those old time matches- there is no comparison (granted the new rackets do help).

Also, Nadal and Federer are so much classier than McEnroe and Connors (Borg was classy). McEnroe was such a punk, and Connors was widely disliked. I think the fact that these two are such respectable men adds to the greatness of this final.

Meeta said...

I agree; the two of them really do epitomize class in a way few players in my lifetime of watching tennis really have. I literally cried with Roger and Rafa at the end of it all. The only other time I remember crying over a sporting event was Andre Agassi's final professional match (US Open 2006)...another guy, incidentally, who garnered a respect that I think lifted the entire sport.

Meeta said...

Oh, by the way...and I don't mean to correct the blogger, but just to clarify what I think is an interesting point on how Wimbledon scoring is unique among the grand slams...the 3rd and 4th sets went to tiebreaks, but the Wimbledon final set never is decided by a tiebreak. They continue full games until one player leads by two games. That's why the final set was 9-7 (nine games to seven games, not 9 points to 7 points in a tiebreak). And that's why these matches can go on forever. :)

Cocameister said...

Thank you. I changed the text in the post to reflect that the 5th set was not a tie-breaker. It really made it exciting that it could have (theoretically) have gone on forever.

I still am in awe of that match and the determination of those two yesterday.

Cocameister said...

Got emails regarding two other finals to add to the list.

1) Argentina defeats Germany 3-2 in 1986 World Cup final. Here is a highlight clip from Youtube:

2) USA defeats Russia, 1980 Olympics. "Do you believe in miracles?" Probably the biggest win ever for this country as a whole as we were at the height of the Cold War at the time and were massive underdogs. Plus, Al Michael's call at the end is probably one of the most played soundbytes from any sporting event ever. Only problem with this game (as well as the World Cup game above) is that I didn't see can't officially add it. Maybe some of did see the game live...I'm sure it was amazing.