11 years later, Federer tops Nadal in Wimbledon semifinals
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.
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.