In the 40th meeting between two tennis greats, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal added another exhilarating chapter to their rivalry Friday in the Wimbledon semifinals. They delivered a first-set tiebreak, ample momentum shifts and poetic rallies that have defined their showdowns over the last 15 years.
Federer, Wimbledon’s No. 2 seed at 37, survived No. 3-seeded Nadal 7-6 (7-3), 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 to advance to his 12th final at the All England Club. He’ll face top-seeded Novak Djokovic, vying for his eighth Wimbledon trophy Sunday. A win in the final would make Federer the oldest to ever win a Grand Slam and add to his record total of 20 major singles titles, his last coming in 2018’s Australian Open.
In Friday’s showdown, Federer came out on the attack and won the first set on a tiebreak 7-3. But Nadal made quick work of Federer in the second by handily claiming the set 6-1. Then Federer bounced back and continued to play attacking tennis to win the decisive third set. In the fourth, Nadal saved several match points, but Federer was able to hold off Nadal’s late charge to strike revenge after losing to Nadal in the French Open semis.
Friday’s match was the first time Federer and Nadal faced each other in Wimbledon since a memorable 2008 matchup, considered one of the greatest matches of all time.
“The battles with Rafa are always very special,” Federer said after Friday’s match.
Nadal still leads their all-time series 24-16, his latest win coming last May in the French Open, where he’s won a record 12 Grand Slams and has been the far better clay court player over Federer, best-suited on grass in his prime. Nadal has two Wimbledon titles, beating Federer in 2008 and Tomáš Berdych in 2010.
Federer, who has now played in 12 of the last 17 Wimbledon finals, has never beaten both Nadal and Djokovic to claim one of his 20 Grand Slams.