Fed­erer, Nadal re­new ri­valry in Wim­ble­don semi­fi­nals

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Howard FENDRICH

WIM­BLE­DON, Eng­land — Af­ter go­ing more than 1 1/2 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.

Last month, Nadal got his shot at Fed­erer on red clay, win­ning their wind-whipped French Open semi­fi­nal in straight sets on the way to a 12th ti­tle there.

“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 2 1/2 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-to­head, 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.”

AP PHOTO BY TIM IRE­LAND

Switzer­land’s Roger Fed­erer serves to Ja­pan’s Kei Nishikori dur­ing a men’s quar­ter­fi­nal match on day nine of the Wim­ble­don Ten­nis Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don on Wed­nes­day.

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