By Ben Gunby
There are moments in sports worthy of more praise than mere mortal words. And there are moments in sports that transcend time, permanently etching memories to those who witnessed them.
Sundays men's final at Wimbledon was such a moment.
I'm no tennis aficionado, nor am I particularly passionate about it; however, the duel between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal was sport at its captivating, exhilarating and gut wrenching best.
When the final was set between the world's No. 1 (Federer) and No. 2 (Nadal), the stage was set for an epic battle; everything had aligned perfectly in place. You had the two premier players in tennis vying for supremacy in their respective sport on the grandest of scales.
This wasn't good versus evil (as both players are extremely likable), nor was it David versus Goliath. This was a case of the new guard looking to seize the throne from the old guard. It was a titanic clash of two giants, and unlike years past, this one did not disappoint.
Despite the fact that it rained at the All England Club, it did not dampen the afternoon's events. In fact, the weather delays brought darkness into play, casting forth a shadow of doubt as to whether or not a winner would actually be determined, heightening the suspense and drama.
What transpired over roughly the next seven and a half hours was simply remarkable. These two finely tuned athletes weren't just playing at the top of their game; they were well above it. Though their athleticism, tactical prowess, shot-making abilities and stamina were challenged, each man rose to the occasion in a fashion befitting of legends.
From the outset, Nadal was determined to put an end to Federer's run of five straight Wimbledon titles, while also becoming the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year. After Nadal took each of the first two sets 6-4, he was in complete control of the match.
But that's when the real fun began.
Nadal had a chance to close out Federer in straight sets, but the Swede staved off elimination in a tie-break in the third set, 7-6 (7-5), to force a fourth.
In the fourth set, Nadal again had Federer on the ropes, serving for the championship only to inexplicably double fault. Federer won the next point, and moments later in what appeared to be a Nadal victory was now a five-set match, knotted at two.
Time and time again Nadal was poised to break Federer, and time and time again Federer delivered a clutch ace at the moment he needed it most. Clearly, one could see the frustration on Nadal's face as he began to wonder what it would take to win.
Across the court, the world's best player remained as cool, calm and collected as before when he was breezing through the early rounds.
With the light dissipating, the two men engaged in a furious battle for tennis' ultimate prize. And with no tie-breaker in place for the fifth and final set, it looked as though they would just play forever.
Finally, with Federer serving at 7-7, Nadal broke him, and as dark settled over the exhausted combatants, so to did it settle on Federer's reign at Wimbledon.
Federer had broken Nadal only once during the entire match, and now down 8-7, he needed to do it once more in order to stay alive.
Finally, the youthfulness of the Spaniard paid off, as Nadal simply outlasted Federer to finish off the match.
If there was ever a time you wished they could just cut the trophy in half, this was it. Both players made it impossible to root against either one, and you hated to see one not rewarded for their efforts.
But Nadal was as gracious in victory as Federer was in defeat. The mutual respect shared between them was evident throughout the match, and on further display upon its conclusion.
These two embody everything that is good about sports, particularly from a competitive aspect.
Bottom line is you don't have to be a tennis fan to appreciate what took place Sunday, especially since it may not happen again for a very, very long time.