The twilight era of arch-rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal was announced quite a few years back with tennis pundits scripting their unseemingly premature career obituaries. The year is 2019 this time.
Half the year has already traversed and three Grand Slams have already been played. Every Grand Slam brought with it the constant names of the Big Three- Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer taking turns with each other to play in the finals.
If it was Novak Djokovic versus Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open finals, it was Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal in the French Open. Staying true to this kind of a permutation combination and knowing that Djokovic had won the Australian and Nadal his 12th French Open, it should be Roger Federer bagging a 9th Wimbledon title after a match-up against Djokovic.
All of this seems too good to be true and the symbolism contained in the history at stake is the stuff that enthralls fans worldwide. The last two years in tennis have followed this pattern and reinvoked the magic in the Big Three who all made a brilliant comeback and inspired the non-believers to believe in the impossible.
What would have been deemed as impossible in the last few years have tended to become a Grand Slam ritual now with Roger Federer setting up a date for his 40th meet with arch-nemesis Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals of Wimbledon.
Only five weeks have lapsed since the duo last met at the French Open semifinals on a terribly windy day where Nadal roared past Roger. The rivalry between them has been rekindled and how over these years.
Countless fans waited for a Federer-Nadal semifinal at the Wimbledon this year and like the poet beginning to write an aubade, Federer and Nadal keep meeting for 'encore' performances, almost.
With the two of them on court, it's hardly a match and more of a spectacle where two opposing forces collide- the battle rages between thesis and anti-thesis, the conflict surges between the wild and the orderly.
Roger Federer has been able to tame Rafael Nadal with an improved backhand in recent years but the glaring 24-15 head to head favouring the Spaniard isn't a favorite statistic of Roger to look at. On the other hand, Roger's 2-1 edge over Nadal on grass courts remain. The Wimbledon courts had played host to the spectacle for three consecutive years.
Roger Federer represented the Old Guard and defeated Nadal in the 2006 and 2007 Wimbledon finals but the baton was finally passed to Nadal after the historic if not the greatest match in tennis history was played- the classic 2008 Wimbledon finals which crowned Rafa as the New Guard.
With 11 years rolling by since then, much has changed. Centre Court and Court Number 1 has installed retractable roofs and lights and both Federer and Nadal have collected 38 Grand Slams in between them and still stand strong.
Let's refresh our memories of the three times they met at the All England Club for mouth-watering finals as we prepare for another epic showdown as part of this Wimbledon 2019.
#3 The Wimbledon Championships 2006 (Finals)
The first time that the two were meeting on grass was the finals of 2006. Roger Federer was vying to defend his Wimbledon crown and bag the title for the 4th consecutive time. Coming into the tournament, Federer did not consider the then World Number 2 and clay court specialist to be a potential finalist.
However, it was the Spaniard's 12th match at Wimbledon, compared with Federer's 36th, but there were moments galore that gleamed for Nadal and caught Federer in a spot. Federer found his serve and his slice backhands in time to save the day and ward off an early threat from Rafa but both the players knew this was not going to be a one-time affair.
Federer did not win the 2006 finals like a cakewalk really because Nadal dragged it over four sets before the Swiss master wrapped it up 6-0, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3. It was Federer who obviously channelized on his experience to tame Nadal that day and claimed his fourth Wimbledon title.
Watch this video to re-visit the best points from the 2006 match.