Wimbledon | Roger & Rafa edging closer
Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal are each one match away from renewing the greatest rivalry in modern tennis in the semi-finals at Wimbledon.
I think the best guys now are fully engaged, they know exactly what to expect from the court and the conditions. Roger Federer
Federer meets eighth seed Kei Nishikori and Nadal faces unseeded Sam Querrey in the last-eight.
Clearly people are hoping for a 40th showdown between them – with Nadal holding a 24-15 advantage – to become a reality.
Their classic 2008 All England – rated by many the greatest tennis match of all-time, with Nadal edging it as the yellow lights on the scoreboard flickered in the twilight, has been alluded to over the tournament.
But neither giant of the game are even considering it. Even though, combined, they have won an astonishing 38 Grand Slam singles titles. And are both proving themselves golden oldies with plenty of life left at the Championships.
Their last 16 victories showed the pair at the top of their form. Joao Sousa did not know what day it was as Nadal steamrollered him in style. And Federer demolished 17th seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini in one of the quickest men’s singles match on record at the tournament.
Swiss Federer, 37, said: “I think it’s going to be tough (against Nishikori). Plus he’s getting into quarters with a lot of energy. I remember some of the slams recently he arrived into the later stages of slams with maybe some tough matches going into it. So far it’s been really easy for him.
“ I think he’s ready. I’m a big fan of his game. I think he’s got one of the best backhands in the game that we have right now. He’s a great return player. Solid mentally. I always thought he was a great talent. I know him since he’s probably 16, 17 years old. So it’s been nice to see him grow there.
“I mean, I’ve played him on grass before, maybe never here. I know what to expect. I think there’s going to be no surprises from either one of us. It’s definitely going to be very different than against Berrettini. We’ll see many more baseline rallies with some different shot-making.”
He was asked how the easy last-16 wins for the Big Three – Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic – reflect on the state of the men’s game.
Federer said: “You always have to look at also what the matchup is, is it just a coincidence that it’s right now the way it is. I think it’s also partially like what I mentioned before. I think the best guys now are fully engaged, they know exactly what to expect from the court and the conditions. That helps us to play better.
“I think with experience, that’s good. We haven’t dropped much energy in any way. It’s not like we’re coming in with an empty tank into the second week. All these little things help us to then really thrive in these conditions. I don’t know what else it is.”
Nadal,33, refutes the suggestion that himself, Federer and Djokovic are sending out a message to the rest of tennis with their continued dominance.
He said: “Honestly, I think we are not sending a message to no one. We try to do our personal careers as good as possible. We think in our way, and that’s all. Personally, I am not thinking about sending a message to no one or about the next generation, how they are coming or not.
“ I know they’re good. I know there going to be a day that they going to be in front of us because they will play better than us or because we are leaving, we are not kids any more. That’s all.
“That’s the thing, of course, is special what we achieved in the last 15 years. Something special, difficult to repeat I think, so many titles between three players. But sometimes these kind of things happens. “
On Querrey, he added: “I think he played the semi-finals in 2017, close match to be in the final. 2017 was an amazing year for him. When he plays well, he can be very, very dangerous in all surfaces. But, of course, in fast surfaces, when he serves with his aggressive game, maybe more.”