Federer reaches 12th Wimbledon final after topping Nadal in four sets

Federer reaches 12th Wimbledon final after topping Nadal in four sets

The Swiss will contest his 12th championship match at the All England Club after winning the pair's 40th career clash.

Eleven years passed since Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer last met at Wimbledon, when Nadal prevailed to win the 2008 title in an iconic classic that stands the test of time.

On Friday, the two reunited on Centre Court, meeting in the semifinal stage for the first time at the London major. The 37-year-old Federer saw off Nadal, 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, to improve his staggering last four record at the All England Club to an 11-1 mark. He defeated Nadal for the sixth time in seven meetings, ending his previous 0-4 record in major semifinals versus the Spaniard.

“I’m exhausted. It was tough at the end,” Federer told the BBC afterwards. “Rafa played some unbelievable shots to stay in the match. I thought the match was played at a very high level. I enjoyed it. The crowd was amazing."

In Sunday’s championship, Federer will look to win a record-extending 21st major and ninth Wimbledon crown against world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. The Serbian leads their head-to-head series 25-22 and is 2-1 versus the Swiss at SW19. Federer, bidding to beat Nadal and Djokovic at the same major for the first time, leads the ATP tour with a 38-4 record this season. He has won 11 successive matches following his 10th Halle triumph and is aiming to win his 20th trophy on grass.

“Novak is supreme. Again, he is defending champion. This week he’s been rock solid from start to finish so far,” said Federer. “He’s not just No. 1 by chance. He’s been so good for the last few years. I’m very, very excited to say the least.”

Fourth set: Federer wins, 6-4

Nadal struggled to find the service box, making just three of 12 first serves to open the fourth set. Federer wasted little time in exploiting the opportunity, breaking on his second chance by unloading on a second serve backhand return that landed near Nadal’s feet, forcing the lefty to hit his forehand reply long. The two traded tense blows as the set went on. Nadal showed his incredible fighting spirit, saving two match points to force Federer to serve it out. The Swiss flubbed an overhead at 30-30, giving Nadal a shot to draw even for 5-5, but he brushed aside the tension, securing the high-quality contest on his fifth match point.


Third set: Federer wins, 6-3

In a crucial two-game swing, Federer rose to the occasion on the pressure points. Up 2-1 after back-to-back love holds, the Swiss finally broke Nadal when the third seed failed to close two volleys, enabling Federer to pounce on the open court with a backhand volley winner. He then denied Nadal three break points in the ensuing game, scrambling on the baseline with composure and compact rallying to consolidate. Federer's level showed no signs of wavering, sealing the two-sets-to-one lead with another love hold. He ended the set with 15 winners to just two unforced errors. 

Second set: Nadal wins, 6-1

After saving a pair of break points in his first service game, Federer had two chances of his own to break Nadal. But from a 1-1, 15-40 deficit, Nadal reeled off five consecutive games, taking advantage of two forehand errors off Federer’s racquet to break at love for 3-1. His lead continued to expand through his precise hitting while errors and mistimed shots crept into his rival’s game. Nadal served it out at love, winning twice as many points as Federer in the set (30 to 15).

First set: Federer wins, 7-6 (3)

Both players were nearly untouchable on their first serves to force their first tiebreaker in seven meetings (when Nadal won the first set, 7-6 (4), in his 2014 Australian Open semifinal victory). Federer was twice down a mini break in this tiebreaker, but he used his reliable forehand to battle back for a one-set lead. The second seed hit seven aces to increase his 2019 record in tiebreakers to 15-3. 

Pre-match notes

In Friday's second Wimbledon semifinal, eight-time champion Federer and two-time winner Nadal are clashing for the 40th time in their historic rivalry, one Nadal leads 24-15. This marks their first meeting at the grass-court major since 2008, when the two delivered what many consider the greatest match of all time, a tussle Nadal won 9-7 in the fifth set to lift his first trophy at the All England Club.

Coming in, Federer led all semifinalists by winning 96% of his service games (74 of 77). In his quarterfinal victory over Kei Nishikori, Federer became the first man to collect 100 wins at a single major.

Nadal, who last month defeated Federer en route to claiming his 12th Roland Garros title, is looking to reach the final for the first time since 2011, when he finished runner-up to Djokovic. He is aiming to complete a French Open-Wimbledon double for the third time and move within one major of tying Federer's record of 20 titles. Through the quarterfinals, Nadal has converted 45% of his break point chances (25 of 55).