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Friday, June 26, 2009
Updated: June 27, 4:11 PM ET
In memory of Michael Jackson

In memory of Michael Jackson, we give you the top five Wimbledon "Thrillers" since 1990.

1. Rafael Nadal defeats Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7 (2008, final)

It's widely regarded as the greatest match of all time for a reason. With darkness descending on the All England Club, Nadal and Federer battled until nearly 9:30 in the evening.

Federer, the five-time defending champion, lost the first two sets, but through three rain delays clawed his way back, winning the next two in tiebreakers. At 7-all in the fifth and deciding set, Nadal finally broke Federer (the first break since the second set) and then held to win the championship.

The match lasted 4 hours, 48 minutes -- the longest final in Wimbledon history.

Aside from the pageantry of this instant classic, it was a sea-change moment in the hierarchy of tennis. Nadal would eventually take over the No. 1 position and has yet to look back.

2. Goran Ivanisevic defeats Patrick Rafter 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7 (2001, final)

Just something about the raucous atmosphere of a Monday final added to the spectacle of this thriller. Ivanisevic, relegated to a wild card after two years of battling shoulder injuries, had always dreamed of winning Wimbledon, where he had thrice ventured to the final before coming up short.

The big-bombing Croat, aided by his legion of passionate supporters in the stands, pulled through, ending what had been no less than a heartbreaking career on the lawns of Wimbledon.

Ivanisevic's unbridled joy after finally unlocking the great Wimbledon mystery in the most dramatic of ways was a dream come true.

3. Venus Williams defeats Lindsay Davenport 4-6, 7-6 (4), 9-7 (2005, final)

Williams and Davenport, no strangers to finals or one another, went toe-to-toe for nearly three hours. In a match rife with drama, Venus saved a match point before upending her American compatriot 9-7 in the third -- the longest Wimbledon deciding set in a final since 1949.

Davenport, suffering from back spasms, played courageously despite receiving treatment from a chiropractor. She flirted with victory numerous times, but failed to hold serve at crucial moments.

Venus ended a four-year title drought on the bucolic Wimbledon grounds and couldn't contain her emotions afterward, calling one of the finest women's finals ever played "exhilarating" and "great."

4. Chanda Rubin defeats Patricia Hy-Boulais 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 17-15 (1995, second round)

Understandably, this match drew little attention on the schedule of play. But as it wore on, fans flocked from all over the grounds.

The final score remains etched in the record books: The 3-hour, 45-minute marathon between Rubin and Hy-Boulais totaled 58 games, the most ever played in a women's match at Wimbledon.

Both competitors felt the ramifications of the duel: Rubin relied on her indomitable spirit to keep her going, despite an admittedly nauseous stomach.

"Toward the end of the third set, I kept saying, 'C'mon, one more game,'" she said.

As for Hy-Boulais, she was mentally drained and frustrated after the final set, which lasted over two hours.

5. Rainer Schuettler defeats Arnaud Clement 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (6), 6-7 (7), 8-6 (2008, quarterfinals)

The match, which was marred by waning sunlight and rain interruptions, required a second day to complete. The overall quality of points by the two veterans was stellar from the outset, with each player deftly trying to outmaneuver the other.

Schuettler finally ended the epic battle after 5 hours, 12 minutes of exhausting tennis -- the third-longest match in Wimbledon history.

Schuettler's reward: A date with Rafael Nadal, who swiftly vanquished his German foe to reach the final.

As for Nadal, he would go on to play in an instant classic of his own in the championship match that year. (See No. 1.)

Matt Wilansky is the tennis editor for