Friday’s match will be first between pair at SW19 since 2008 final

Eleven years after Rafael Nadal’s victory against Roger Federer, the pair will renew their rivalry again at Wimbledon. The Spaniard swept aside Sam Querrey in the quarter-finals to grant him his spot.

Federer finished his quarterfinal first on Wednesday, rallying to defeat Kei Nishikori, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4, on Centre Court. Nadal joined him soon after, defusing the big serve of the American Sam Querrey to win, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2, on No. 1 Court.

For all that the failure of the young pretenders to challenge the Big Three has been lamented, it has its upsides too given Nadal and Federer have not clashed in SW19 since that unforgettable tussle in 2008.

Friday’s match will be the 40th meeting for Federer and Nadal. During their last meeting, Nadal finished off that five-set classic in near darkness. Flashbulbs were required to chronicle the trophy ceremony on Centre Court. The match was widely viewed as a passing of the torch, the long-dominant Federer, then 26, ceding his spot to the irresistible youth of a 22-year-old Nadal.

“I think it’s definitely not a — how do you say? — regular time in tennis in the men’s game,” Federer said, uncharacteristically searching for words on Wednesday. “I don’t think we would have thought that Novak, me and Rafa — all of us — were going to be so solid, so dominant for so many years.”

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this latest Federer-Nadal match is how unremarkable it seems that they are back in the Wimbledon semifinals at this stage of their careers.

“Not only are these two guys still at it, but they are still very much at the peak of their powers,” said Jon Wertheim, the author of “Strokes of Genius,” a book about the 2008 Wimbledon final. “Their rivalry still has so much heft, and their passion for the sport hasn’t diminished. They both approach the sport so differently and get to the top of the mountain by such different paths, but here we are.”

“[To] play against Roger always is a unique situation. Excited to be back on this court against him after 11 years. Means a lot for me and probably for him, too,” Nadal said.

“Excited about this match, excited about this opportunity to be again in that round against him. Always I say the same: of course, the opportunities to play against each other every time are less, but we are still here. After tomorrow we are going to have another chance.

“I just expect to play against probably the best player in the history of this surface and know that I have to play my best if I want to have chances to try to be in that final.”

All eyes in the tennis world will shift to Federer-Nadal XL come Friday. Nadal won their most recent contest in the Roland Garros semi-finals last month en route to his 12th Roland Garros title. But Federer has thrived in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry (Nadal leads 24-15) when they’ve played on quicker surfaces.

“Probably is better to have that [Roland Garros] victory than to have defeat, of course. But on the other hand, it’s a completely different situation. [To] play on grass or play on clay is probably the biggest change in the world of tennis,” Nadal said. “I think the player who will have the chance to play better… will be the player who has more chances to be through. That’s all. These kinds of matches are like this.”

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