Wimbledon Daily Dispatch: Nadal-Federer Semifinal Clash Set, Djokovic To Face Bautista Agut, Serena and Murray Fall in Mixed Doubles
By Thomas Cluck
(July 10, 2019) A lot has changed at Wimbledon, in tennis, and in the world since 2008: two new retractable roofs over Centre and No. 1 Court, a whole new crop of major champions and world number one’s, almost ten new iPhone models, and two US Presidents. But over those 11 years tennis fans have been waiting, hoping, praying for a rematch of the epic, legendary 2008 Wimbledon men’s final, the domination, record-breaking, age-defying, and longevity of men’s tennis’ two greatest champions, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, has stayed the same.
Eleven years on from that 2008 epic, often even said to be the greatest match of all time, even memorialized in an Emmy-nominated documentary by Jon Wertheim, Federer and Nadal will lace it up once again on the lawns of the All England Club’s Centre Court to do battle, this time not with a trophy, but a spot to play for it, on the line.
For Nadal, the two-time champion at SW19 fought off another tricky test from another big-serving, powerful opponent, handling the unseeded American Sam Querrey, a giant-killer of Wimbledon in the past, in straight sets to book the “Fedal” Friday date 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 in just over two hours.
Nadal served big and boldly for most of the match, hitting his trademark groundstrokes with aggression and command, but faced his biggest test late in the opening set as Querrey broke the Spaniard’s serve while looking to close out the first set, blasting his shots and giving Nadal all he had before succumbing the set 7-5 and allowing Nadal to roll from there on out.
“I had to work. I am very pleased. It is difficult to imagine to be again in that situation but here we are,” said Nadal. “Of course I am excited to play against Roger again at Wimbledon after such a long time. Just excited about the victory of today right now, but of course excited to play against Roger again here in Wimbledon after such a long time.”
Rolling into the Wimbledon last four for the second year in a row and coming in high on confidence after outpacing three very dangerous opponents, Nadal, who is on a 17-match win streak fresh off his 12th French Open title, will face Federer full of confidence that he can get the better of his Swiss rival, whom he dominated in straight sets at Roland Garros a month ago on the way to his 18th major crown.
“First of all, it’s a great feeling to be back in that semi-finals. I’m very happy the way we managed to be in that round,” commented Nadal. “Now [to] play against Roger always is a unique situation. I’m excited to be back on this court against him after 11 years. It means a lot for me and probably for him, too.”
“I’m excited about this match, excited about this opportunity to be again in that round against him. Always I say the same: of course, the opportunities to play against each other every time are less, but we are still here. After tomorrow we going to have another chance.”
“I just expect to play against probably the best player of the history in this surface and know I have to play my best if I want to have chances to be in that final. That’s all. I know he’s playing well. He feels comfortable here. And me, too. I’m playing well, too,” assessed the third-seeded Nadal.
Federer had to face a tougher fight in his quarterfinal today in London, overcoming a rough opening set against the eighth seed from Japan Kei Nishikori to win in four 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and 36 minutes.
“It was difficult. The beginning was brutal,” said Federer. “Kei came out and was smashing winners; he was the better player. So it was important to get the lead and protect it, then start a normal match at one set all. I served really good and protected that until the very end.”
Federer, who has won four of the last five meetings with Nadal since both came back from injury at the start of 2017, including an epic five-set final win over the Spaniard to win the 2017 Australian Open, comes into Friday’s men’s semifinal day clear on his tactics and game plan on grass to defeat Nadal, whom he’s 2-1 with at Wimbledon.
“Well, we have a lot of information on Rafa, and so does he about us,” commented Federer. “You can either dive into tactics and all that stuff like mad for two days. Or you are just going to say, ‘You know what? It’s grass-court tennis, and I’m going to come out there and play attacking tennis, and if he can defend that, good. And if he can’t, well, that’s good for me’.”
“It was a joy to play against Rafa at Roland Garro. I go about it like every other match.”
Asked if he would draw on their recent semifinal meeting just a month ago in Paris, Federer said “not so much the French Open I do believe. It was so windy, as you know. It was just insane. I haven’t heard it was going to be the same in a couple of days, so I hope not, even though that would be funny again.”
While Friday’s “Fedal” last four faceoff will dominate headlines for the men’s draw over the next 48 hours, top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic has continued cruising along this tournament, still yet to face a top 20 player and only one set dropped so far.
Djokovic defeated Belgian David Goffin, the 21st seed, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2, coming back from a break deficit in the first set before regaining control and cruising to the victory and a semifinal spot.
There on Friday he will face the other Spaniard in the men’s semifinals, 23 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who became just the third Spanish man along with Nadal and Manuel Orantes to make the last four at The Championships. Bautista Agut beat surprise semifinalist Guido Pella of Argentina in four sets over three hours, winning 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 on No. 1 Court.
One of the most fun and entertaining stories of Wimbledon so far came to an end Wednesday on No. 2 Court as the surprised mixed doubles pairing of two-time Wimbledon champion and British hero Andy Murray and 23-time major champion Serena Williams fell in the third round to the top-seeded team of Brazil’s Bruno Soares and American Nicole Melichar 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
“We had so much fun. We aren’t ready for it to be over but we both are obviously focused on our health,” said Williams. “We’re celebrating the fact that we’re feeling better. We want to just continue to do better.”
“I just love Andy’s spirit. It’s so fun to play with him. He’s so calm and chill. I loved having the support. Hopefully I can still have it.”
“To play on this stage with Andy, who has done so well here for so many years, it is literally a lifetime experience. I’m so happy that I got to experience it,” commented the seven-time Wimbledon singles champion, who’s going for number eight in the semifinals tomorrow against Barbora Strycova.
Assessing his physical state and the feeling in his hip following this doubles comeback for the grass court season following hip resurfacing surgery, Murray said “I achieved a lot. The most positive thing is my body felt good. My hip was feeling good, so that was positive”
Discussing the next steps in his comeback to potentially play singles again, the British former number one and three-time major champion said “it’s a lot of physical work now, trying to get stronger really, get a good balance with all of the muscles around my hip. I’m doing some physical testing next week. I did some pre-Queen’s.”
“It will be interesting to see what’s happened these last four weeks where I’ve been obviously playing tennis but doing not much training, to see how things have progressed or not. Then I’ll do four to six weeks of training. Then I’ll have some testing done after that again. Hopefully I will have progressed again. But I’ve still got quite a long way to go,” explained Murray.
“You need to find the right way of playing that would be good for your body but also allows you to be competitive and win matches.”
Asked whether a singles return at the US Open in late August would be in the cards potentially, Murray took a cautious approach.
“I don’t know. I need to train, get stronger. We’ll see.”
While Murray and Williams bowed out of the mixed doubles draw on day nine, Thursday’s day ten action will see women’s semifinals take center stage as Centre Court is led off by the heavyweight duel between defenders Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, the eighth seed, and 2018 French Open champion Simona Halep of Romania, seeded seventh. The second women’s semifinal will follow as Williams takes on the crafty Czech veteran Barboa Strycova for a spot in Saturday’s final.