Outside of a puzzling dip in form in the second set, Roger Federer outplayed Rafael Nadal in the 40th meeting between the all-time greats on Friday, as the 37-year-old Swiss advanced to the Wimbledon final with a 7-6(3), 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.
In the highly-anticipated final, neither player budged on serve in the first set as both held in each of their six service games to force the opener into a tiebreaker. Federer came back from down a mini-break twice in the breaker, and won five straight points from 2-3 down to take the first.
Federer got deep into Nadal’s service game into the second set, but Nadal saved multiple break points to hold for 2-1. After that, Federer’s level dropped and Nadal pounced to win five straight games from 1-1, and leveled the match at one-set-a-piece.
But the eight-time Wimbledon champion righted the ship in the third set. He fired 15 winners to just two unforced errors, and secured the set’s only break point to once again take the lead in the match.
Federer’s sharpness continued into the fourth set as he committed just four unforced errors and kept pestering Nadal in his service games. He got the set’s lone break point for a 2-1 lead in the set, and that was all he needed. He saved the only break point he faced, which came as he was serving for the match at 5-4, and closed out the win after a Nadal backhand sailed deep beyond the baseline.
“I’m exhausted. It was tough—at the end Rafa played some unbelievable shots to stay in the match,” said Federer. “I had spells where I was serving very well and probably the biggest points in the match went my way. That first set was huge, to get the lead and try to protect it. It was a joy to play.”
Awaiting Federer in the final will be defending champion and top-seed Novak Djokovic, who beat 23rd seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the day’s first semifinal.
“It’s the final of Wimbledon. This is the kid of match that I always dreamed of being part of as a young boy with the tennis racquet,” said Djokovic, who is now into the Wimbledon finals for a sixth time in his career. “This is what I worked for. I wanted to be in this position. I have a chance to fight for a trophy. Regardless of who’s across the net or what is happening, I’ll definitely give it my all.”
Djokovic has looked like the tournament’s best player from the onset of this fortnight, and will be seeking the 16th Grand Slam title of his career, which would bring him within one of Nadal on the all-time list. Federer, the all-time leader, is seeking to win his 21st career Grand Slam title.