If you asked the bookies, then Rafael Nadal was the odds-on favourite to win the semi-final against his arch-rival Roger Federer at Wimbledon on Friday. Younger, newly-energized, just demolished Federer at a Roland Garros semi-final, a head-to head record of 24 wins to Nadal against Federer’s 15—what’s not to bet for Nadal’s chances? The last time they met on this court—that classic five-setter in the 2008 Wimbledon final—had every bit of drama, skill, grit, strength, luck, rain delays that a tennis lover can dream of. Yes, Nadal had got the better of Federer on the latter’s most successful surface too.
After Friday’s four-setter semi-final, that head-to-head rivalry now stands at 24-16. Because sometimes, old dogs teach younger ones a few new tricks. And if you ignore the last paragraph, in their last seven meetings, Federer has managed to defeat Nadal six times, which includes one walkover at Indian Wells this year. That is, barring this year’s French Open semi-final, the last time Nadal defeated Federer was in 2014 at an Australian Open semi-final.
Federer will be 38 on August 8, next month that is. He has defied all odds, increased his cache of Grand Slam titles to still stand at the top of the tally. Federer is the second oldest man to reach a Grand Slam final in the Open Era, that honour going to the great Australian Ken Rosewall, who reached the finals of both Wimbledon and the US Open aged 39, in 1974.