It’s been eleven years since Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal took each other on at Wimbledon so you can bet that fans will be crowding in to see this spectacular matchup on Friday. Their last head to head there in 2008 has been tagged as one of the greatest matches every played.
After going more than 1½ years without playing each other anywhere, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will be meeting at a second consecutive Grand Slam tournament when they face off in Wimbledon’s semifinals.
“We had some brutal conditions to play (in) there. But it was a joy to play against Rafa there, on his court,” Federer said. “And, of course, I’d love to play against him here at Wimbledon.”
On Friday, Federer gets his shot at Nadal on grass and hopes to prolong his pursuit of a ninth championship at the All England Club.
“Means a lot for me,” Nadal said, “and probably for him, too.”
This is their 40th showdown on tour; Nadal leads 25-14. It’s their 14th match at a major; Nadal leads 10-3. And it’s the fourth time they’ll play at Centre Court; Federer leads 2-1.
But Nadal did win the last one, edging Federer 9-7 in the fifth set of the 2008 final — considered by many the greatest match in tennis’ lengthy history — as daylight dwindled to nothing.
That would never again be an issue, because a retractable roof and artificial lights have been in place at the tournament’s main stadium since the following year. Another movable cover was added to No. 1 Court this year.
What hasn’t changed? Federer and Nadal are still at the top of the game.
If it’s hard to believe more than a decade has passed since these two rivals last shared a court at Wimbledon, it’s also tough to fathom how it is that they have dominated their sport as long as they have. Federer ranks first among men with 20 career Grand Slam titles. Nadal is next with 18. Add in the third-place count of 15 trophies belonging to Novak Djokovic, who is seeded No. 1 and plays No. 23 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in Friday’s other semifinal, and this terrific trio has won 53 of the last 64 major championships.
That includes 14 of the last 16 at Wimbledon. Also: 10 in a row everywhere over the past 2½ seasons.
Djokovic is seeking his fifth trophy, and second straight, at the All England Club, while Bautista Agut is making his Grand Slam semifinal debut.
Djokovic leads 7-3 head-to-head, but Bautista Agut won their two matchups this season, both on hard courts.
“Going to try to use my experience in being in these kind of matches, get myself tactically prepared,” Djokovic said. “Hopefully I can execute everything I intend to do.”
Although Federer turns 38 on Aug. 8, Nadal is 33 and Djokovic 32, they aren’t showing signs of letting up.
“We still (feel) that we have chances to compete for the most important things,” Nadal said. “That’s what really make us keep playing with this intensity.”
Not to mention keep working on aspects of their game.
Federer, for example, switched to a larger racket and began using a flatter backhand more frequently instead of a slice. Nadal has worked on his serving and that’s helped him once again be a contender on grass.
He reached the final during five consecutive Wimbledon appearances from 2006-11, winning twice, but hasn’t been that far since, including a series of exits against opponents ranked 100th or worse. Last year, he was beaten in five sets by Djokovic in the semifinals.
“Haven’t played each other in a long, long time on this surface. He’s serving way different. I remember back in the day, how he used to serve. And now, how much bigger he’s serving, how much faster he finishes points,” Federer said. “It’s going to be tough. Rafa really can hurt anybody on any surface. I mean, he’s that good. He’s not just a clay-court specialist, we know.”
3 Wimbledon Matches For Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer
2006 Final, Federer d. Nadal 60 76(5) 67(2) 63
The question – Could Roger Federer be beaten on grass? – was not a rhetorical one in 2006, two years after the surging Nadal introduced himself as a potential challenger to the Swiss. Heading into their 2006 final, Federer, the top seed and three-time defending champion, was riding a 47-match grass-court winning streak.
But while Nadal had proved a worthy fighter on clay and hard – the Spaniard had won 17 tour-level titles, including two Roland Garros crowns, all basically before his 20th birthday – he had yet to carry that success over to the grass. The 20-year-old was playing in his first Wimbledon final and his previous best finish was the third round.
The duo had split the season’s two first Grand Slams – Federer winning the Australian Open (d. Baghdatis) and Nadal Roland Garros (d. Federer). But during their second meeting in a Grand Slam final, it was Federer who began in hot form and maintained his level.
The Swiss eased through the opener and broke Nadal when the Spaniard served at 5-4 to close out the second set. Nadal rebounded in the third, but Federer took early control in the fourth, breaking Nadal at 2-1 and 4-1 and eventually winning the Championships when serving at 5-3.
Federer, who captured his 39th career title and eighth Grand Slam crown, became the sixth man to secure four straight Wimbledon titles. He’d go onto have one of his best seasons ever, winning three Grand Slam titles and becoming the first man to reach all four Slam title matches since Rod Laver in 1969. Federer finished 2006 with 12 tour-level crowns.
2007 Final, Federer d. Nadal 76(7) 46 76(3) 26 62
Nadal had again beaten Federer in the Roland Garros final, the Spaniard’s third consecutive Paris title. And, during their second Wimbledon final, he showed he would be a formidable foe for Federer on quick surfaces for years to come by producing the best grass-court performance of his career despite having endured a draining fortnight.
Nadal, playing for the seventh consecutive day after rain wreaked havoc on the tournament schedule, showed his mental and physical toughness by pushing the four-time defending champion Federer to five sets for the first time in his 34-match win streak at the All England Club.
Federer, who had never lost a match at Wimbledon after winning the first set, claimed the first set tie-break despite Nadal’s gallant effort to save three consecutive set points at 3/6.
An attacking Federer made many forays to the net but Nadal had his blistering passes dialed in. The Spaniard saved a break point in the first game of the third set and then didn’t face another break point until Federer claimed the decisive break in the sixth game of the fifth set.
Having seen Nadal save 16 of 17 break points against him to win Roland Garros, Federer twice rallied from 15/40 in the fifth set to avoid going down an early break.
Federer, who clubbed 65 winners – including 24 aces and a plethora of crosscourt backhand winners – equaled Bjorn Borg’s record of five consecutive Wimbledon titles. Nadal was attempting to become the first player since Borg in 1980 to win Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same year, a feat he wouldn’t have to wait much longer to accomplish.
2008 Final, Nadal d. Federer 64 64 67(5) 67(8) 97
For the third year in a row, here they were, defending champion Federer and reigning Roland Garros champion Nadal. The two were owning the European clay and grass swings, making it six straight Roland Garros-Wimbledon finals between the two of them.
In one of the most eagerly anticipated matches of their 18-match rivalry, Nadal won the first set but fell Federer looked to have things under control in the second with a 3-0 lead.
The World No. 2 Nadal, however, fought back to silence the Centre Court crowd and take a two sets to zero lead. The third set was interrupted by rain, with Federer leading 5-4. The duo returned after a 71-minute delay and, despite windy conditions, held on for a tie-break. Federer forged ahead 5/2 and eventually clinched the set on his third set point.
The fourth set moved into an inevitable tie-break, which kept the thousands of spectators on Centre Court on the edges of their seats. Two unforced errors from Federer on the forehand wing gave Nadal his first championship point at 7/6. One shot and the Swiss’ reign would have ended right there, but again his serve rescued him.
Nadal, though, struck a forehand winner with Federer approaching the net for his second championship point at 8/7. Serving for the match, Nadal was drawn to the net by Federer who passed the 22-year-old with a backhand winner down the line. With Nadal’s confidence dented, Federer seized control of the tie-break and took the final to a decisive set.
More rain interrupted the match at 2-2 in the fifth set. After a 30-minute delay, the final resumed and as darkness set in, Nadal finally converted his fourth break point opportunity for an 8-7 lead after Federer hit a forehand long.
Another championship point went begging, but at the fourth time of asking Nadal clinched the 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7 victory in four hours and 48 minutes. It was the longest final in Wimbledon history (since 1877). The battle for the No. 1 ATP Ranking had just intensified, and the greatest match ever played had just finished.
In the years since, the match has become commonly known as one of the greatest ever. Sports Illustrated tennis writer Jon Wertheim later wrote a book – which spawned a documentary – about the match, titled, “Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played”.
Djokovic Has A Tough Match With Agut
Novak Djokovic only has to look back a few months to remind himself that he shouldn’t underestimate his next opponent at Wimbledon.
The top-ranked Serb will be facing Roberto Bautista Agut, a player who beat him in both of their meetings in 2019 — on hard courts in Doha and Miami.
So while the match is pitting a four-time Wimbledon champion with 15 major titles against a player in his first Grand Slam semifinal, recent history suggests that things might not be quite so one-sided.
“He has won twice against me so far this year. That’s certainly going to give him confidence coming into the match,” Djokovic said.
Ahead of the quarterfinals, Bautista Agut was — somewhat surprisingly — the only player who hadn’t dropped a set this tournament. That streak ended against Guido Pella, but the 23rd-seeded Spaniard still won 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Djokovic had an easier time against David Goffin after erasing an early break, winning 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.
Djokovic is known for his ability to extend rallies and keep the ball in play with his defensive ability, and Bautista Agut said that’s a style of play that suits him well.
“He is very solid from baseline. He likes to play a lot of rallies,” Bautista Agut said. “Well, I like to play against (an) opponent like this, to play a match with a lot of rallies. Against Novak, that’s what we do.”
On the grass at Wimbledon, though, there might not be so many of those rallies. But Djokovic thinks Bautista Agut could be even more dangerous on the quicker surface.
“The ball bounces lower on the grass, which is I think more suitable to his style of the game. He doesn’t like when the ball bounces higher to his backhand,” Djokovic said. “Obviously playing on grass, it’s different. Semifinals of Grand Slam, (I’m) going to try to use my experience in being in these kind of matches.”
With Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal set to square off in the other semifinal, Bautista Agut is the odd man out in a final four that includes the sport’s ever present Big Three. In fact, it seems not even he had expected to make it this far.
The Spaniard had scheduled his bachelor party for this week instead.
“I had planned to be in Ibiza right now. We had everything organized already. My friends, six of them, are all there,” Bautista Agut said. “Well, it feels better to be here in London.”
ANDY MURRAY AND SERENA WILLIAMS
They definitely had time for some laughs in their post-match news conferences — even after losing in the third round.
Williams said she enjoyed appearing in front of the media alongside the two-time men’s champion at the All England Club because much of the focus was on Murray and his chances of returning to singles.
“Andy gets asked every question about his body and the U.S. Open. Literally every question in a different way, but it’s the same question,” Williams said after losing to top-seeded Bruno Soares and Nicole Melichar 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. “It’s great for me because I get to sit here and just look.”
Then, as if she were one of the reporters, Williams started a mini-exchange with her doubles partner.
“How is your body?” she asked.
“Feels good, thanks,” came the reply.
“Are you going to be able to play New York?” Williams asked, trying to suppress her laughter.
“I don’t know,” Murray answered, mimicking previous replies he’d given this week. “I need to train, get stronger. We’ll see. I’m not sure.”
Murray missed last year’s Wimbledon tournament with a hip injury. Since hip replacement surgery this year, he has been playing only doubles.
On Tuesday, after reaching the third round in mixed doubles, Murray was asked repeatedly if he would be able to get back to singles, possibly in time for the U.S. Open. He wasn’t able to give a definitive answer, but while he was trying to satisfy the questioners, Williams looked on laughing to herself.
SAM QUERREY’S RANKING
After missing the French Open with an injury, a run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals has given Sam Querrey high hopes for the rest of the season.
Querrey pushed Rafael Nadal hard in the opening set on Wednesday before losing 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 to the third-seeded Spaniard, and said his recent performances on grass has given him a “boost” heading into the American hard-court season. Querrey also reached the final at the Eastbourne grass-court warmup.
“To have three months off, come back, make a final and a quarterfinal, I feel confident,” Querrey said. “Hopefully this will carry over to the summer.”
Querrey has beaten both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray at Wimbledon in the past and made the semifinals in 2017. But he has fallen to 65th in the rankings, having been as high as No. 11 last year. If he keeps playing like he has been at the All England Club, though, he could soon be knocking on the door to the top 10 again.
“This is a good stepping stone for that,” he said. “Hopefully I can win a handful of matches (in the U.S.) and keep my ranking going in the right direction.”