Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal renew rivalry in Wimbledon semifinals | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World Sports

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal renew rivalry in Wimbledon semifinals

Associated Press
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AP
In this July 6, 2008 photo, Rafael Nadal (left) shakes the hand of Roger Federer after winning the Wimbledon final. After going more than 1½ years without playing each other, Federer and Nadal will be meeting at a second consecutive Grand Slam tournament when they face off in Wimbledon’s semifinals.

WIMBLEDON, England — After going more than 1½ years without playing each other, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will be meeting at a second consecutive Grand Slam tournament when they face off in Wimbledon’s semifinals.

Last month, Nadal got his shot at Federer on red clay, winning their wind-whipped French Open semifinal in straight sets on the way to a 12th title there.

“We had some brutal conditions to play (in) there. But it was a joy to play against Rafa there, on his court,” Federer said. “And, of course, I’d love to play against him here at Wimbledon.”

On Friday, Federer gets his shot at Nadal on grass and hopes to prolong his pursuit of a ninth championship at the All England Club.

“Means a lot for me,” Nadal said, “and probably for him, too.”

This is their 40th showdown, and Nadal leads 25-14. It’s their 14th match at a major, and Nadal leads 10-3. And it’s the fourth time they’ll play at Centre Court, with Federer leading 2-1.

But Nadal did win the last one, edging Federer, 9-7, in the fifth set of the 2008 final — considered among the greatest matches in tennis history — as daylight dwindled to nothing.

That would never again be an issue, because a retractable roof and artificial lights have been in place at the tournament’s main stadium since the following year. Another movable cover was added to the No. 1 Court this year.

What hasn’t changed? Federer and Nadal are still at the top of the game.

If it’s hard to believe more than a decade has passed since these two rivals last shared a court at Wimbledon, it also is tough to fathom how it is they have dominated their sport as long as they have. Federer ranks first among men with 20 career Grand Slam titles. Nadal is next with 18. Add in the third-place count of 15 trophies belonging to Novak Djokovic, who is seeded No. 1 and plays No. 23 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in Friday’s other semifinal, and this terrific trio has won 53 of the last 64 major championships.

That includes 14 of the last 16 at Wimbledon. Also: 10 in a row everywhere over the past 2½ seasons.

Djokovic is seeking his fifth trophy, and second straight, at the All England Club, and Bautista Agut is making his Grand Slam semifinal debut.

Djokovic leads 7-3 head-to-head, but Bautista Agut won their two matchups this season, both on hard courts.

“Going to try to use my experience in being in these kind of matches, get myself tactically prepared,” Djokovic said. “Hopefully I can execute everything I intend to do.”

Although Federer turns 38 on Aug. 8, Nadal is 33 and Djokovic 32, they aren’t showing signs of letting up.

“We still (feel) that we have chances to compete for the most important things,” Nadal said. “That’s what really makes us keep playing with this intensity.”

Not to mention keep working on aspects of their game.

Federer, for example, switched to a larger racket and began using a flatter backhand more frequently instead of a slice. Nadal has worked on his serving, and that’s helped him again be a contender on grass.

He reached the final during five consecutive Wimbledon appearances from 2006-11, winning twice, but hasn’t been that far since, including a series of exits against opponents ranked 100th or worse. Last year, he was beaten in five sets by Djokovic in the semifinals.

“Haven’t played each other in a long, long time on this surface. He’s serving way different. I remember back in the day how he used to serve. And now, how much bigger he’s serving, how much faster he finishes points,” Federer said. “It’s going to be tough. Rafa really can hurt anybody on any surface. I mean, he’s that good. He’s not just a clay-court specialist, we know.”

Categories: Sports | US-World
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