LONDON, July 11: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal battle for a place in the Wimbledon final on Friday, 11 years after they mesmerised Centre Court in a Grand Slam championship match widely regarded as the greatest ever played.
Switzerland’s Roger Federer returns the ball to Japan’s Kei Nishikori during the Wimbledon quarterfinal in London. – AP/PTI
Nadal emerged triumphant that day, winning in five sets in a four-hour 48-minute epic of fluctuating fortunes that stretched out over seven hours because of constant, momentum-shifting rain interruptions.
The Spaniard won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-7 (8/10), 9-7 as the clock ticked past 9 pm and with the famous stadium in near-darkness.
Over a decade later, the sport’s two most successful players now have 38 Grand Slam titles between them and more than $100 million in prize money each.
Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 champion at Wimbledon, has the edge overall, leading his great rival and friend 24-15 and 10-3 at the Slams.
However, it is eight-time champion Federer who just edges their Wimbledon head-to-head 2-1 after winning the 2006 and 2007 finals before Nadal famously broke the spell in 2008.
Nadal, who demolished Federer in straight sets in the semifinals at Roland Garros last month on his way to a 12th title in Paris, admits his game has developed since 2008.
Mostly, that’s due to his age as well as the desperate need to protect his creaking knees which so often conspired against him on the low-bouncing lawns of the All England Club.
“I am running less so I need to serve better. I probably cannot play 20 weeks a year any more,’ said 33-year-old Nadal.
“I am serving better. I am hitting the backhand better. Maybe volleying better, slicing better.”
In terms of the bare statistics, there is little to choose between them.
Nadal has served up 47 aces so far and has been broken just four times; Federer has 42 aces, dropping serve on only three occasions.
The Spanish third seed is yet to face a seeded player and has only been truly tested once, in his four-set second round victory over Nick Kyrgios in what was comfortably the tournament’s most bad-tempered match.
Federer, 37, is the oldest man in the semifinals of a Slam since 39-year-old Jimmy Connors at the 1991 US Open.
He is in his 13th semifinal at the tournament and 45th at the majors.
In a career illuminated by landmarks, he became the first man to register 100 match wins at a single Slam when he came back from a set down to beat Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals.
Federer is wary of the dangers presented by Nadal.
His loss in Paris, which took place in what he described as “insane” windy conditions, was his heaviest at the Slams in 11 years. – AFP