London: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal battle for a place in the Wimbledon final on Friday, 11 years after they mesmerised Centre Court in a Grand Slam championship match widely regarded as the greatest ever played.
Nadal emerged triumphant that day, winning in five sets in a four-hour 48-minute epic of fluctuating fortunes that stretched out over seven hours because of constant, momentum-shifting rain interruptions.
The Spaniard won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-7 (8/10), 9-7 as the clock ticked past 9 pm and with the famous stadium in near-darkness.
Over a decade later, the sport’s two most successful players now have 38 Grand Slam titles between them and more than 100 million dollars in prize money each.
Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 champion at Wimbledon, has the edge overall, leading his great rival and friend 24-15 and 10-3 at the Slams.
However, it is eight-time champion Federer who just edges their Wimbledon head-to-head 2-1 after winning the 2006 and 2007 finals before Nadal famously broke the spell in 2008.
Nadal, who demolished Federer in straight sets in the semifinals at Roland Garros last month on his way to a 12th title in Paris, admits his game has developed since 2008.
Mostly, that’s due to his age as well as the desperate need to protect his creaking knees which so often conspired against him on the low-bouncing lawns of the All England Club.
“I am running less so I need to serve better. I probably cannot play 20 weeks a year any more,” said 33-year-old Nadal.
In terms of the bare statistics, there is little to choose between them.
Nadal has served up 47 aces so far and been broken just four times; Federer has 42 aces, dropping serve on only three occasions.
Federer, 37, is the oldest man in the semifinals of a Slam since 39-year-old Jimmy Connors at the 1991 US Open.
“Rafa really can hurt anybody on any surface,” said Federer.
The eager anticipation of their 40th clash has relegated defending champion Novak Djokovic’s push for a fifth title to second billing.
The top seed and world number one faces Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut who is in his maiden last-four at the majors.