Rafael Nadal is relishing the chance to take on Roger Federer again at Wimbledon for the first time since their classic final of 2008.
The pair will meet in the semi-finals at the All England Club on Friday after Federer recovered from a set down to defeat Kei Nishikori and Nadal pulled away following a tight first set in a 7-5 6-2 6-2 victory over Sam Querrey.
The final 11 years ago, when Nadal defeated Federer after five epic sets, is regarded as arguably the best match of all time.
Every point means so much...July 10, 2019
It seems remarkable that they have not played each other on grass since, and Nadal said: “It’s a great feeling to be back in the semi-finals, be able to be playing at this level of tennis is great news.
“Now to play against Roger always is a unique situation. I’m excited to be back on this court against him after 11 years. It means a lot for me and probably for him, too.
“I’m excited about this match, excited about this opportunity. Always I say the same: of course, the opportunities to play against each other every time are less, but we are still here.”
Nadal’s victory over Federer in 2008 was the third time in a row they had played each other in the final, with the Swiss winning the previous two.
Nadal went on to win a second title in 2010 while Federer became the first man to lift the trophy eight times here when he defeated Marin Cilic in 2017.
“I just expect to play against probably the best player of the history on this surface, and I know that I have to play my best if I want to have chances to try to be in that final,” said Nadal.
“I know he’s playing well. He feels comfortable here. And me, too. I’m playing well.”
Nadal had spent several years struggling with his knees on grass until 2018, when he also made the last four and was agonisingly close to beating eventual champion Novak Djokovic.
#Wimbledon men's final four
- 20-time grand slam winner Roger Federer
- 18-time grand slam winner Rafael Nadal
- 15-time grand slam winner Novak Djokovic
He has looked superb this fortnight, his only dropped set coming in the second-round blockbuster against Nick Kyrgios.
Nadal began in the same vein here, leaping into the air when he broke the Querrey serve in the third game.
The big-serving American has dropped down the rankings to 65, partly because of injury, but has history at Wimbledon having ended Djokovic’s winning slam run three years ago and then reached his only slam semi-final in 2017.
He had also won his most recent match against Nadal, in Acapulco two years ago, and dug in well to fight back.
A 7th #Wimbledon semi-final. A 32nd Grand Slam semi-final.July 10, 2019
Nadal did not drop a point on serve until he double-faulted leading 4-3 30-0, but suddenly things became complicated.
He saved a break point in that game but was then unable to take any of three set points in the next, and a fourth also went begging before Querrey broke back for 5-5.
Nadal knew these were dangerous moments and he took advantage of a dip in Querrey’s level on serve to break again immediately before saving three break points to win the set, two with aces.
Nadal played with more freedom after that and, after breaking early in the second set, the break points he saved in the sixth game proved to be the last major hurdle.
Querrey served 22 aces but won only 10 of 36 points where he missed his first serve, while Nadal’s final tally of 43 winners and 12 unforced errors told of a job well done.
Querrey was left to rue missed chances at the end of the first set, saying: “I kind of felt that it’s crucial against the big three to come out hot. To get the first set would have given me a lot of momentum. That was really a game changer.”
- Press Association