It won’t happen in the finals. And by now, it’s more a match of the aged than one for the ages. But Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will meet in the Wimbledon semifinals on Centre Court on Friday. And that’s appointment television by any definition.
Who knows, maybe the Duchess of Sussex might show up if she can convince the Duke or someone else to watch Archie for a few hours.
“Obviously, I know people always hype it up,” said Federer.
He is correct. Nadal-Federer is bound to be exciting, just like it always is. It’s our generation’s McEnroe-Connors and every stroke is be savored. Hopefully, it will go five sets and leave us mentality and physically exhausted.
“Well, we have a lot of information on Rafa, and so does he about us,” Federer said Wednesday. “You can either dive into tactics for two days or you can just say it’s grass-court tennis, and I’m going to come out and play attacking tennis, and if he can beat me, then that’s too good.”
This was made possible by the luck of draw. Federer took care of Kei Nishikori in four sets to earn his place. It was his 100th career match win at Wimbledon.
No men’s player had ever it the century mark at a single Grand Slam before, which is surprising to hear since Nadal almost never losses on clay at the French Open, where he’s a 12-time champion.
Nadal earned his spot with a straight-set win over Sam Querry, hitting 43 winners over just two hours and six minutes.
“It’s really difficult to imagine being in this situation again, but here we are,” Nadal said. “I’m just excited about the victory of today right now, but of course I’m excited to play against Roger again at Wimbledon after such a long time.
“I had a lot of defeats; I had a lot of victories. [Our] relationship never changed. Always big respect. Good friendship, relationship. That’s all. Probably will not change if I win, if I lose.”
If you’ve lost track, this will be the 40th match between the two all-time greats. Nadal has won 24 of the first 39. And it will be their 14th meeting at a Grand Slam. Once again, Nadal has the advantage (10-3).
Federer won their first two Wimbledon meetings, the 2006 final (6-0, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (2), 6-3) and the 2007 Wimbledon final (7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-2). But Nadal came back to win the 2008 final (6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7). So it’s been 11 seasons since they’ve met – competitively, that is – in London.
The pair also played in the French Open semifinals, with Nadal winning (6-3, 6-4, 6-2).
“We had some brutal conditions when we played at Roland Garros this year, but it was a joy to play against him there, on his court. I’ll just go about this one like every other match,” said Federer.
According to Tennis.com, Federer believes an aspect of Nadal’s grass game has vastly improved over the years.
“He’s playing very differently than he used to,” said Federer. “We 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.
Said Nadal: “I am running less, so I need to serve better. I probably cannot play 20 weeks per year anymore, so I need to reschedule my planning to improve things to be very competitive every single time that I am on court.
“Of course I’m serving better. I’m hitting the backhand better. Maybe volleying better, slicing better – but even like this, I don’t know if my level today will beat my level of years ago.”
The two have combined for 38 Grand Slam titles, more than any other two men in the history of the game. Federer has won a record eight Wimbledon titles.
“I just expect to play against probably the best player in the history of this surface and know that I have to play my best if I want to have chances to try to be in that final,” said Nadal. “That’s all.
“I know he’s playing well. He feels comfortable here. And me, too. I’m playing well, too.”