Any sport, in general, thrives on rivalries among two players or two teams who manage to attain their peaks almost congruently in spite of co-existing in the same era. The players involved in these rivalries earn a massive status, leaving behind their legacy for many decades to follow and undoubtedly fuel the energies of the fans as well, drawing them ever closer towards the game.
One such rivalry in tennis history that has not only entertained and mesmerized generations but also has inspired scores of tennis fans on and off the court for almost a decade and a half now is the epic duel between Roger Federer and the ‘King of Clay’, Rafael Nadal.
We are in 2019 and perhaps it is hard to believe, but it is happening yet again as 37-year old Federer will meet his biggest rival, 33-year old Nadal in their upcoming semi-final clash of Wimbledon on the Centre Court on the back of their semi-final showdown at Court Phillipe Chatrier at the French Open just a month ago.
The last time these two stars met at the French Open and Wimbledon back to back was long back in 2008 and nothing seems to have changed 11 years later, except the fact that both of their meetings were in the finals of both the Grand Slam Majors back then unlike this year, where they are battling against each other one round earlier, in the semifinals.
Stark contrast among the two has been the essence and talking point of their rivalry throughout all these years and we are expected to witness the same when an in-form Nadal clashes against an ice-cool Federer in their upcoming ‘battle of ages’ Wimbledon semi-final showdown at the Centre Court of the All England Club.
Against Sam Querrey in the quarter-finals, Nadal dug deep, especially in the first set to overcome the stern challenge of big-serving American to register a win in straight-sets 7-5, 6-2, 6-2, over two hours to storm into his 7th Wimbledon semi-final.
On the other hand, Roger Federer dropped the first set against Kei Nishikori, but eventually cruised through his quarter-final encounter against the Japanese in four sets, emerging victorious by a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 margin in two hours and 36 minutes.
Federer's win set up an epic showdown in the semi-final against Nadal, which will resume perhaps the most decorated rivalry in the history of tennis.
Nadal-Federer rivalry in numbers
The two superstars have met each other on a record staggering 39 occasions so far and the Spaniard overwhelmingly leads their duel 24-15.
It is true that Nadal is quite a distance ahead of his biggest nemesis on the wins count, however that number is majorly dominated by the Spaniard’s unquestionable and unparalleled record on clay.
The duo have faced each other on 23 occasions on the non-clay surfaces and it is the Swiss maestro who edges past his rival with a 13-10 win-loss record in his favor.
At Wimbledon, Federer has faced Nadal thrice so far, in the finals on all those occasions, winning the title in 2006 and 2007, while succumbing to a loss in the 2008 final. With that win in the finals of 2008, Nadal achieved a remarkable feat back then and in the process halted Swiss maestro’s five-year Wimbledon winning streak to emerge as a new champion at the competition.
Their forthcoming semi-final is their first meeting at the All England Club since that historic and epic 2008 Wimbledon final, perhaps the best ever match in the history of tennis.
However, at the Grand Slam Majors, their rivalry is lopsided with Nadal recoding 10 remarkable wins over Federer in 13 meetings so far and this is the stat that would bother the latter before his upcoming clash against the Spaniard.
At Roland Garros last month, Nadal secured a comprehensive straight-sets victory over his rival and thereby also halted Federer’s five-match winning streak against him that began at Basel, back in 2015.
The Spaniard’s remarkable serving has been a story in itself so far at this year’s Wimbledon. Throughout his career, his service has always been under the scanner. However, a remodeled serve that the Spaniard developed along with his coach Carlos Moya at the beginning of this year has been instrumental in Nadal’s dominance at the All England club thus far.
In aces department, Nadal has shown a massive improvement as compared to last year and no wonder his opponents have been wary of his service games throughout the tournament so far.
Nadal has looked phenomenal, authoritative and brutal on grass after a long, long time on SW19 so far this year, but is well aware of the his upcoming opponent.
He last won his Wimbledon title back in 2010 and hasn’t even made an appearance in the final at the All England Club since 2011. This year is perhaps the Spaniard’s best chance to pocket another Wimbledon title to move closer towards his rival Roger Federer as far as the Grand Slam wins count is concerned.
For Nadal, at Wimbledon this year, even a prospect of completing a hat-trick of winning French Open and Wimbledon titles back to back in the same year is at stake having achieved this feat twice in the past, in 2008 and 2010.
Wimbledon is Federer’s fortress. He has won this Major for a record eight times so far.
Having being sensationally upset at the hands of South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in the quarter-finals last year, the Swiss maestro was denied his 9th Wimbledon crown.
And here we are this year as Federer is yet again in the semi-finals of his most favourite Slam, two victories away from his 21st career Grand Slam Major.
However, the eight-time Wimbledon champion faces his biggest test so far as this year’s Wimbledon in the form of his long-time rival Nadal in the semis, who himself has looked invincible thus far at the Championships.
The Swiss maestro, in his journey up until now has appeared to be serene and at his dominant best, yet has a lot to lose if he loses to Nadal, his biggest rival, in their upcoming semi-final clash.
The big question
Can Nadal defy history and odds to overcome Federer in his own fortress to enter into his 6th Wimbledon final of his career? If the Spaniard does so, he will become only the second man to win over Roger Federer twice at Wimbledon.
Last but not the least, the upcoming semi-final blockbuster is not just a match between two great players and rivals, but also a celebration of sport in itself at the hands of two of the most decorated players tennis has ever witnessed.
This clash is for dreamers, it is for quintessential sports lovers as Nadal and Federer, two of the greatest rivals of the game, who are perhaps walking into the evening of their careers, get ready to lock horns in their upcoming semi-final battle to rewrite the history books of Wimbledon.
Federer will hold all the aces, but will Nadal have all the answers?
We can’t wait for the most anticipated match of this Wimbledon to get underway at the Centre Court on a super semi-final Friday.