The last time Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal met at Wimbledon, a dark gloom had descended as the Spaniard was crowned champion beneath a shower of flashing bulbs. It was an iconic moment for tennis, a match widely considered to mark the pinnacle of the sport.
There may have been no coronation of any sort this time around, no ethereal darkness to coat the occasion, but more than a decade on these two men still hold the ability to bring their sport to a breathless standstill.
After yet another titanic struggle between these two greats -- the fourth of its kind at the All England Club -- it was Federer who emerged triumphant following just over three hours of absorbing tennis, winning 7-6 (7/3), 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.
In the eleven years that have passed since that iconic, sport-changing day in 2008, the two men have woven the richest of rivalries. It is a tapestry of epic battles -- 40 in total, fought out across the globe -- that runs through two glorious decades.
And as yesterday’s meeting showed, the competitive edge that exists between these two men has not waned with the passing of time. It burns as brightly as ever, manifesting in a spectacle that left those present here on Centre Court humbled by what they had witnessed.
In what was only their fourth-ever meeting on grass, Federer’s victory meant more than just a place in this year’s final. After the agony of that defeat in 2008 -- as well as the more recent humiliation at Roland Garros -- this was a timely reminder that the Swiss remains a force to be reckoned with on the green stuff. It may be two years since his last win at Wimbledon, but this was the performance he needed to show he remains capable of securing a record-breaking ninth title.
Looking back on that memorable evening in 2008, plenty has changed since. But for all their shared glory and riches, this was a match where all of that became irrelevant. At its core, this was simply another thrilling collision between two of the greatest players to have graced the game, both striving and struggling to walk away as victor. So as our attention turns to Sunday’s final between Federer and Novak Djokovic, let’s not forget this clash for what it was: the latest spine-tingling chapter in a story that looks unlikely to end anytime soon.
“I’m exhausted, it was tough at the end. Rafa played some unbelievable shots to stay in the match, it was a very high level,” said Federer.
“The battles with Rafa are always special. The biggest points went my way, there were some tight ones in the long rallies.”
Federer is the third oldest man ever to play in a Grand Slam final after 39-year-old Ken Rosewall featured in the 1974 Wimbledon and US Open finals. He faces top seed and four-time winner Djokovic, who reached his sixth Wimbledon final, and 25th at the majors, with a nervy 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 triumph over Spain’s 23rd seed Roberto Bautista Agut earlier in the day.
“Novak is the defending champion and he has shown that this week,” added Federer. “He has been really solid. I will try and push him to the brink but it will be difficult as it’s not for nothing that he is number one. But I am very very excited to say the least.”
“This has been a remarkable tournament for me and to be in another final is a dream come true,” said Djokovic.