11 years later, Fed­erer tops Nadal in Wim­ble­don semi­fi­nals

The Saline Courier Weekend - - SPORTS - By Howard Fendrich As­so­ci­ated Press

WIM­BLE­DON, Eng­land — Roger Fed­erer waited 11 years to get another shot at Rafael Nadal on Cen­tre Court. This one was a semi­fi­nal, not a fi­nal. It was set­tled in four sets, not five.

Felt like just as much of a clas­sic con­test, though, one that any­one present is not likely to for­get.

That, of course, in­cludes Fed­erer, who man­aged to pull away and beat long-time ri­val Nadal 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 Fri­day by fi­nally com­ing through on his fifth match point.

“I’m ex­hausted,” Fed­erer said. “It was tough at the end.”

Fed­erer closed in on a ninth cham­pi­onship at the

All Eng­land Club and 21st Grand Slam tro­phy in all. In Sun­day’s fi­nal, Fed­erer will go up against No­vak Djokovic, who is the de­fend­ing cham­pion and seeded No. 1.

Djokovic over­came Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 ear­lier Fri­day to reach his sixth Wim­ble­don fi­nal.

As en­ter­tain­ing as that match was — in­clud­ing a 45-stroke point won by Djokovic — it was merely a tasty ap­pe­tizer ahead of the day’s de­lec­ta­ble main course.

Not only was this the 40th in­stall­ment of Fed­erer vs. Nadal, but it also was their first meet­ing at Wim­ble­don since the 2008 fi­nal. Nadal won that one 9-7 in the fifth set that ended after 9 p.m., as any trace of day­light dis­ap­peared, in what some

were sched­uled to face each other later Fri­day in their first meet­ing at Wim­ble­don since the epic 2008 fi­nal won by Nadal, 9-7 in the fifth set as dark­ness de­scended.

“Of course I will watch it,” Djokovic said of the day’s sec­ond semi­fi­nal. “My coaches will prob­a­bly see the whole match. I’ll def­i­nitely see parts of it. I’m a fan of that matchup, as well. Fed­erer-nadal is one of the most epic ri­val­ries of all time. So it’s fan­tas­tic to see them play to­day.”

The open­ing semi­fi­nal was played un­der a cloudy sky and with a breeze that topped 10 mph, oc­ca­sion­ally both­er­ing the No. 1-seeded Djokovic.

It was his 36th ca­reer ap­pear­ance in the fi­nal four at a ma­jor tour­na­ment — and the de­but in that round for Bautista Agut, who was seeded 23rd.

Even HE didn’t re­ally ex­pect his visit to the All Eng­land Club to last this long: The Spa­niard was sup­posed to meet a half-dozen of his bud­dies on the is­land of Ibiza this week­end for his bachelor party. In­stead, those pals were sit­ting in a guest box at Cen­tre Court on Fri­day.

“He was not re­ally over­whelmed, so to say, with the sta­dium and with the oc­ca­sion. He played re­ally well,” Djokovic said. “First set, he was still prob­a­bly man­ag­ing his nerves and he made some un­char­ac­ter­is­tic un­forced er­rors. But later on, at the be­gin­ning of the sec­ond, he es­tab­lished him­self.”

After a flat fore­hand re­turn win­ner off a 107 mph serve on the very first point, Bautista Agut cer­tainly did lose his way for a bit. Djokovic won 14 of the next 18 points while pulling out to a 3-0 lead — and he didn’t need to pro­duce much magic to do so. Just one of those ini­tial 14 points came via his own win­ner; 10 re­sulted from Bautista Agut’s un­forced er­rors.

But the sec­ond set saw a shift. Djokovic stopped his un­til-then suc­cess­ful tac­tic of of­fer­ing some va­ri­ety and head­ing to the net when he could. His fore­hand also be­came problemati­c, while Bautista Agut couldn’t seem to miss a shot.

Bautista Agut al­ready beat Djokovic twice ear­lier this sea­son. Could he do it again?

No, largely be­cause Djokovic re­dis­cov­ered his best abil­i­ties. He came up big­ger in the long­est points, even­tu­ally hold­ing a 29-17 edge when they lasted at least 10 strokes.

Once his vol­ley win­ner found the net tape and trick­led over to cap the third set — turn­about was fair play, in this in­stance, after the way the pre­vi­ous set ended — the out­come seemed in­evitable. Djokovic broke to lead 2-1 in the fourth, and again for 4-1, then needed a hand­ful of match points to seal the vic­tory.

Whether he faces sec­ond­seeded Fed­erer or third­seeded Nadal next, it will be the 22nd Grand Slam fi­nal in­volv­ing two mem­bers of the Big Three, and the sev­enth at Wim­ble­don.

One of that trio will be the cham­pion at an 11th con­sec­u­tive ma­jor tour­na­ment and for the 54th time in the past 65.

KIRSTY WIGGLESWOR­TH/AP

Switzer­land’s Roger Fed­erer cel­e­brates after beat­ing Spain’s Rafael Nadal in a Men’s singles semi­fi­nal match on day eleven of the Wim­ble­don Ten­nis Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don, Fri­day, July 12, 2019.

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