A graphical replay of the greatest tennis match ever played, 10 years later

Just one of over 400 points.
Just one of over 400 points.
Image: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Every sport has moments that, when mentioned, bring fans into a haze of dreamy nostalgia. Two people will, even if they are strangers, reminisce as though old pals, reliving the parts of the dream they remember best.

For tennis fans, such a moment came exactly 10 years ago. It was the 2008 men’s Wimbledon final, between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It was a match that promised everything and delivered even more. It was two players—with opposing styles, who we all already knew were two of the best ever—at the top of their games, battling to claim the sport’s biggest prize. It was nearly five hours long. And it is considered by many to be the greatest match ever played.

Why? In part because it was close. Really close. This chart shows the number of points won by each player throughout the match. In the end, the eventual victor, Nadal, won only five more points than Federer.

Now, we are at Wimbledon 2018, the 10th anniversary of the Federer-Nadal classic. This year offers the juicy possibility of a rematch. Even a decade later, Federer is seeded #1 at the tournament, Nadal #2. Nobody else in the draw seems capable of beating either man.

Before that, though, we can relive and learn more about that epic Sunday in 2008, by breaking the chart above way down. The graphic below uses detailed match data from Tennis Abstract to show every single point in the match, who won it, and highlights the key moments that would determine the winner. (And if you’ve got five hours to kill, the whole thing is on YouTube, in real-time.)


Image for article titled A graphical replay of the greatest tennis match ever played, 10 years later
Image: Quartz/Nikhil Sonnad