No man had beaten Roger Federer at Wimbledon since 2002. But in near darkness, one of the greatest tennis matches ever played concluded Sunday with Roger Federer hitting a short forehand into the net and with a victorious Rafael Nadal flat on his back with camera flashes illuminating his drained and delighted face.
Nadal had come the closest to beating Federer in last year's final, pushing his friendly rival to five sets before ending up in tears in the locker room as Federer equaled Bjorn Borg's modern men's record with his fifth straight victory.
Last year's emotional tussle immediately took its place among the best Wimbledon finals, but this five-set classic -- played on a rainy, gusty day -- was better yet.
At 4 hours 48 minutes, it was the longest singles final in Wimbledon's 131-year history and did not finish until 9:16 p.m. local time.
"The most important thing is to win the title," said Nadal, who won, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7. "After that, you think about winning against the No. 1, probably the best player in history or close, and the fact it was so dramatic. But it's one of the most powerful feelings I've had in my life."
By the end, as hard as it was to see, the top-seeded Federer and the second-seeded Nadal had produced so much brilliant tennis under pressure that it seemed the most normal thing in the world that Federer smack yet another ace to get out of trouble or that Nadal hunt down yet another sharply angled groundstroke and rip an off-balance passing shot for a winner.