Nadal made it third time lucky against ATP World No. 1 Roger Federer of Switzerland in The Championships final, after beating the five-time defending champion 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7 on Centre Court. The final, which finished at 9:15pm BST, was twice interrupted by rain.
"[I'm] just very happy because I played with very positive attitude all the time," said Nadal. [To] win here is unbelievable for me."
At four hours and 48 minutes in duration, it was the longest final in Wimbledon history (since 1877), and the 9-7 deciding set was the longest in a championship since 2001 when Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia defeated Australian Pat Rafter 9-7 in the fifth set.
Nadal has closed the gap to 545 points in the South African Airways ATP Rankings behind Federer. Federer has 6,600 points to Nadal's 6,055. Nadal came into Wimbledon 1,145 points behind Federer.
Watch excerpts from Rafael Nadal's post match media conference
Nadal's fifth career Grand Slam title (5-2) gives him the most among Spaniards, surpassing Santana (4). Nadal is the second player - after Federer in 2004, ‘06-07 - to win two of the first three Grand Slam titles in a season since Pete Sampras won the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 1997.
The 22-year-old held two of four championship points in the fourth set tie-break at 7-6 and 8-7, but Federer fought back to within sight of winning a sixth successive Wimbledon singles crown. The Swiss shares the record of five straight triumphs with Englishman Laurie Doherty (1902-06) and Borg (1976-1980).
"Federer is a great champion," said Nadal. "His attitude always is positive when he loses or when he wins. I always have a lot of respect for him. I admire him a lot. We have a very good relationship."
Federer had been trying to become the first player since 1927 to come back from a two-set deficit in the Wimbledon final and win. That year Henri Cochet defeated French compatriot Jean Borotra 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5. Federer was attempting to come back from a two-set deficit and win for the fourth time in his career.
“[It is] probably my hardest loss, by far,” said Federer. “I thought I played well. [But I] missed too many chances obviously in the first couple of sets. Rafa played well. I'm happy we lived up to the expectations. I'm happy the way I fought. That's all I could really do.”
The last male to have saved match points and won a Wimbledon singles final was American Bob Falkenburg, who saved two match points against John Bromwich of Australia in 1948.
Nadal now holds a 12-6 career lead (9-1 on clay, 2-3 on hard, 1-2 on grass) against Federer. It was their 14th overall meeting in a final (Nadal leads 10-4). This was the sixth career meeting in a Grand Slam final between the two superstars (Nadal leads 4-2), which is the most in the Open Era.
Nadal improved his match winning streak to 24 in a row since his last loss to compatriot and former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero in the opening round at Masters Series Rome on May 7. It is also Nadal's fourth straight title (Masters Series Hamburg, Roland Garros, Queen's, Wimbledon) and an ATP-best sixth title of the year.
Federer's all-time record 65-match winning streak on grass, including 40 in a row at Wimbledon, comes to an end (since his last loss to Croatian Mario Ancic in the first round at Wimbledon six years ago). Federer's unbeaten streak in 10 career grass court finals also ends.
Since Roland Garros in 2005 when Nadal captured his first Grand Slam crown, 13 of the last 14 Grand Slam titles have been won by Federer (8) or Nadal (5). The lone exception came at the Australian Open in January when Novak Djokovic broke through to win his first Slam title.
The 2008 Wimbledon final was the third time in the Open Era that the same two players had met in the championship of a Grand Slam tournament for three consecutive years. The others were Federer and Nadal at Roland Garros (2006-08) and from 1988-90 at Wimbledon where Sweden’s Stefan Edberg defeated Boris Becker of Germany in two of the three years.
In the mixed doubles final, which did not start until 8:32pm BST, American Bob Bryan and Samantha Stosur of Australia upset top seeds Mike Bryan and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia 7-5, 6-4 in 61 minutes on Court One.