August 16, 2016
In 2018, Rafa Nadal was involved in the two best and most memorable matches Wimbledon had to offer.
His fifth set against Juan Martin del Potro was hailed by Andy Murray as one of the finest sets of tennis he had ever seen. Simona Halep claimed that for her it was simply the best match ever.
But Nadal wasn’t finished and played an epic semi-final against Novak Djokovic, spread over two days. The sheer power and craft on display was breath-taking as millions watched the drama unfold.
Wimbledon has many reasons to love the Spanish. For a start, you helped to create our own champion, Andy Murray, who went to Barcelona’s Sanchez-Casal Academy aged 15 and came away, 18 months later, ready to take on the world.
Then of course there is the greatest match Wimbledon or indeed the world has ever seen – won by one of the best-loved Spaniards in human history, Rafael Nadal.
Yes, it will be hard for tennis ever to beat the 2008 Wimbledon final, which stretched over seven hours and saw Nadal beat the great Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (8-10), 9-7 in near darkness.
Even taking away the two rain delays, that delicious epic still lasted for a record-breaking four hours and forty-eight minutes – and no one will ever forget it.
Thanks again, Spain!
No wonder we so readily forgive one of your great champions for trying to tell us that “grass is just for cows.”
Manolo Santana’s temporary error of judgement was soon exposed by the great man himself. Santana beat Dennis Ralston 6-4, 11-9, 6-4 to win Wimbledon in 1966, the year he was also world number one. Suddenly grass wasn’t just for cows after all!
The plucky Manuel Orantes came close to emulating Santana in 1972 when he reached the semi-final, but it was Conchita Martinez who finally covered Spain in glory once more in 1994, when she beat the great Martina Navratilova 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to become the first Spanish woman ever to win Wimbledon.
Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario came close the next two years, only losing out to the legendary Steffi Graf in successive finals.
Then in 2017 Garbine Muguruza, the Spanish-Venezualan, displayed awesome power to defeat the great Venus Williams 7-5, 6-0 to claim her first Wimbledon title, in her second final. The statuesque and athletic Muguruza’s following continues to grow by the year.
But the inimitable Nadal’s victories of 2008 and 2010 have made him one of the most adored sportsmen London has ever hosted at any venue. And he is never far from the Wimbledon headlines.
In 2018 Nadal succumbed to eventual Wimbledon winner Djokovic in the end. But he had generated even more love from the Wimbledon crowd, if that were possible. Rafa had done more than anyone to make Wimbledon 2018 so great.
Who will grab our attention next time? Will Nadal storm back once more to wow the crowds and take the title? Will Muguruza reclaim the women’s title in 2019?
One thing’s for sure: grass isn’t just for cows. The Spanish have demonstrated that beyond all doubt and we’ve loved every moment.
You can be confident that, whatever happens at Wimbledon this year, the Spanish will have some part to play in the most dramatic action.
Viva Espana! Come and enjoy Wimbledon! The great moments of the tournament are as much yours as ours!
And for all the joy you have given us so far, we say a heartfelt “Gracias!”