London — This Wimbledon marks the 10th anniversary of one of the most famous matches in tennis history: Rafael Nadal’s victory over Roger Federer in the 2008 final at the All England Club.
It finished 9-7 in the fifth set as camera flashes lit the darkness. It left a lasting impact on the sport and the two athletes involved.
“I’m sure that we’ll talk about it when we’re older,” Federer said, “in the rocking chair.”
Nadal, who had lost to Federer in the previous two Wimbledon finals, called it “a very important step forward for me” and “one of the most emotional matches that I played in my career.”
Not surprisingly, Federer acknowledged that “it was one of the hardest losses I ever had, no doubt about it” and he used the word “heartbreak” to describe the setback’s effect on him.
“It was a great match for many reasons. It also made me more human, potentially — the loss, under the circumstances,” said Federer, who was 5-0 in Wimbledon finals before that day and was trying to win a record-breaking sixth consecutive men’s title at the grass-court major. “But it was a great match to be part of.”
He said he had trouble remembering details of that day when he was asked about it in a recent TV interview.
“Honestly,” Federer said, “I think, for me, it was one of the matches I tried to sort of forget a little bit.”
A decade later, they still rule their sport.
Federer owns a record eight Wimbledon trophies, and Nadal has two. Federer has a men’s-record 20 Grand Slam titles, and Nadal is next with 17. They have split the past six major championships between them.
Nadal is ranked No. 1, and Federer is No. 2. Federer is seeded No. 1, and Nadal is No. 2.
Here is what else to know before play starts today at the year’s third Grand Slam:
Serena Williams is in the field for the first time since 2016, after sitting out last year while pregnant. She has won Wimbledon seven times, including in 2015 and 2016, part of her collection of 23 Grand Slam singles titles.
Her older sister, Venus, is a five-time champion at the All England Club and was the runner-up to Garbine Muguruza last year. While Serena is 66-1 for her career in first-round matches at majors, Venus enters having lost two Grand Slam openers in a row for the first time – at the Australian Open in January, then the French Open in May.
Can Kvitova get No. 3?
The British bookmakers’ top two favorites for the women’s title are Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova, a lefty who was the champion in 2011 and 2014. Kvitova’s status is truly remarkable, considering that her racket-swinging hand never fully recovered from a knife attack at her home in the Czech Republic in December 2016.
“It’s not 100 percent. Will never be 100 percent,” Kvitova said. “I’m happy I do have my fingers.”
Only four men have won a Wimbledon title in the last 15 years, but one of them, Andy Murray, will not be in the field this time, because he is not ready to play best-of-five-set matches less than six months after having hip surgery. In 2013, Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years. He won it again in 2016.
Add that pair to Nadal’s pair, Federer’s haul and Novak Djokovic’s three trophies, and the “Big 4” have accounted for every championship at the All England Club since 2003.
Maria Sharapova is back at Wimbledon for the first time since 2015, after being forced to sit out the tournament during a 15-month doping ban, then missing it because of an injury a year ago, when she would have needed to try to qualify because her post-suspension ranking was too low to get in automatically.
Sharapova won the first of her five major titles at Wimbledon in 2004 when she was 17, beating Serena Williams in the final.
When: Today through July 15
TV: All days on ESPN and ESPN2
Defending champions: Roger Federer and Garbiñe Muguruza