Rafael Nadal triumphed at 2008 Roland Garros, only losing four games against Roger Federer in the final. The Spaniard quickly crossed the English Channel to compete at the Fever-Tree Championships the following week to pursue personal history. The 22-year-old entered the event without a grass-court trophy.
Nadal hadn’t advanced past the quarter-finals in his first two appearances at The Queen’s Club. Riding a 12-match winning streak, the Spaniard cruised past Jonas Bjorkman and overcame 18-year-old Kei Nishikori in three sets to reach his third straight quarter-final in West London.
Nadal then faced big-serving Croatian Ivo Karlovic. Neither player broke serve, so all three sets went to a tie-break. A double fault cost Nadal the opening set, but the two-time Wimbledon runner-up fired crucial forehand winners in the second and third-set tie-breaks to claim victory after two hours and 24 minutes.
Standing between Nadal and a spot in the championship match was four-time winner Andy Roddick. The stars were tied at 2-2 in their ATP Head2Head series, with Roddick winning their most recent encounter earlier that year in Dubai. But it was Nadal who played his best tennis in crucial moments, saving each of the four break points he faced and converting one against Roddick’s serve in each set to earn a 7-5, 6-4 win.
Bidding to win his first grass-court title, Nadal faced World No. 3 Novak Djokovic for the trophy. Djokovic entered the contest in peak form, having dropped a combined five games to beat four-time winner Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, respectively.
Nadal recovered from break point down at 0-3 in the first set and ripped a forehand winner to save set point at 5/6 in the first-set tie-break en route to taking the opener. The World No. 2 faced further pressure in the second set as Djokovic served to force a decider at 5-4. However, Nadal raised his level and soon won three straight games to capture his maiden grass-court ATP Tour title 7-6(6), 7-5.
After what he called an “amazing week” at The Queen’s Club, Nadal quickly set his sights on going one step further at Wimbledon. Federer had beaten the Spaniard in the championship match in 2006 and 2007.
“Wimbledon is a very, very important tournament and the motivation is 100 per cent,” said Nadal.
Three weeks later, in one of the greatest matches of all-time, Nadal dethroned five-time defending champion Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7 after four hours and 48 minutes to become Wimbledon champion for the first time. With the milestone victory, Nadal became the first man to complete the Queen’s Club-Wimbledon double since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002 and the sixth player since 1981 to achieve the feat.