Nadal’s epic triumph over Roger Federer was watched by 13.1 million BBC viewers at its peak, and was rated by many as the greatest match ever seen at the All England Club.
Nadal will become the first player since Andre Agassi in 1999 to capture all four grand slams if he can conquer the fast courts of America and Australia in the manner he has tamed grass.
Federer was the first to concede that Nadal, the undisputed king of clay with four consecutive French Open titles, is now a real threat to his domination on the hardcourts at the US Open, which starts next month – and where the Swiss has lifted the crown for the past four years.
Federer said: “He’s playing better on the quicker courts. Rafa keeps you thinking and that’s what the best players do to each other.
‘‘I was hoping, with the momentum going into the fifth set, that it was going to be enough from my end that I would play a little bit better.
‘‘But I couldn’t play my best when I had to. Towards the end, with the light, it was tough. But it’s not an excuse. Like I said, Rafa served well and played well and deserved to win in the end.”
Nadal, who yesterday opted not to defend his Mercedes Cup title in Stuttgart in order to rest a knee injury he suffered at Wimbledon, is also closing in fast at the top of the world rankings, having narrowed the gap on Federer to just 545 points, which means by the end of the season tennis could have a new world number one for the first time since February 2004.
Nadal reached the fourth round of last year’s US Open, losing to fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, and a significant improvement this time round would earn him a big rankings boost. Nadal said: “If I meet Roger on hardcourt, it is going to be good news because we can only meet in the final.”
The 22-year-old has gleaned confidence from his success on Wimbledon’s grass, a surface many Spaniards have shunned in the past.
Three weeks ago at Queen’s, however, Nadal became the first Spaniard to take a grasscourt title in 36 years and he says: “I love playing on this surface. Sometimes, if the serve is very good, it is a little boring but there are very nice matches.
“You have options. You can play aggressive. Sometimes you can go to the net. It is an interesting game. You have to understand the surface.” Former Wimbledon champion John McEnroe, who played Bjorn Borg in 1980 in what previously had been rated the sport’s best match at Wimbledon, was happy to concede it had been eclipsed by the late-night spectacular in SW19.
He said: “I have just witnessed the greatest match I have ever seen. The drama, the quality and the way it ended when it seemed as though no more tennis could possibly be played was remarkable, to put it mildly.”
As expected, Andy Murray climbed back into the top 10 in the world rankings due to his quarter-final showing at Wimbledon.
The British number one, who has no ranking points to defend from this time last year when he missed three months with a wrist injury, moved up from 11th to ninth.