Rafael Nadal dethroned Wimbledon king Roger Federer yesterday in the longest final in tournament history, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7, to become the first man since Bjorn Borg to win the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back. Although Federer remains the No. 1 ranked player in the world on the computer, he has shockingly failed to win a major thus far in 2008 and now faces what could be the most defining challenge of his career: how to cope?
When Federer lost to Novak Djokovic in the semis of Australia, it was only one loss in one tournament. When he was embarrassed by Nadal in the final of the French Open, he was simply not good enough against the best clay-courter in the business. To lose his Wimbledon title is tantamount to losing his identity, however, and to surrender the crown to his nemesis in such dramatic fashion is pouring salt onto an open wound. Federer's loss on grass signals a new reality. From here on out, there will be an ever-growing number of players both eager and capable of beating Roger, surface be damned. Grass was Roger's last bastion of invincibility.
After so much indescribable excellence, it will be fascinating to see how Federer reacts to his darkest hour. The men's field is catching up. Does the almighty Fed have an even higher level of play within him? Roger has practically been anointed the greatest player of all time already, but the hour has come for him to prove that he deserves it. When he does break Pete Sampras's record for most major titles, the moment will be all the more sweet because of this struggle.