LONDON – In their 40th career standings, one thing is certain: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal know how to stage a show at Wimbledon.
Second-seeded Federer held on Friday against No. 3 Nadal 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 on center court to play his 12th final at the All England Club, where he will look for a record. ninth extension against Novak Djokovic, seeded Sunday.
The Swiss star, having failed to capitalize on two match points in the penultimate match and two in the last match – one after a long exchange; another on a shot in the middle of the field – finally closed Nadal after the Spaniard sent a long shot.
The 20-time singles Grand Slam winner has capitalized throughout the match on his service against Nadal, finishing with 14 aces and 69% of his first serve.
It was their first encounter at Wimbledon since the 2008 final, when Nadal won an epic fifth set 9-7 at dusk. Federer won his eighth record at Wimbledon in 2017, but lost to Djokovic in the final in 2014 and 2015.
Nadal still has a 24-16 career advantage, including 10-4 at Slams.
Djokovic, meanwhile, sarcastically encouraged the fans to make more noise after losing the second set of his semifinal win 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 against Roberto Bautista Agut.
After seeing Bautista Agut's shot on the net, jumping through the air and sliding to the winner who tied each game tied, Center Court spectators stood up to applaud, perhaps contemplating a tight match.
Djokovic walked to his deck chair, nodded and waved his racket, then his right hand, to the crowd. Then he went to work.
"You spend all the time in this kind of emotional moments, especially at big matches like this," Djokovic said. "… sometimes I show my emotions, sometimes no."
Soon, the reigning champion bellowed and shook his fist after securing himself an extra cost to take a break in the third set. Moments later, he ended a base trade of 45 strokes – the longest in his history at Wimbledon, where such statistics go back to 2006 – with a winner of the backhand to save a point shut.
I had to dig deep, "said Djokovic, who will play his fifth title at Wimbledon in six appearances for the final and his 16th overall Grand Slam trophy.
It was his 36th career appearance in the last four of a big tournament – and the debut of this round for Bautista Agut, ranked 23rd seed.
Even though he did not really expect his visit to the All England Club: the Spaniard was supposed to meet half a dozen of his pals on the island of Ibiza this week -end for his bachelor party boy. Instead, these friends were sitting in a platform at the Center Court on Friday.
"He was not really overwhelmed, so to speak, at the stadium and on the occasion, he played very well," Djokovic said. "In the first set, he was probably still managing his nerves and he made some unusual non-forced mistakes, but later, early in the second, he established himself."
Bautista Agut has certainly gone astray a bit after beating the ball at the first point at 107 km / h. Djokovic won 14 of the following 18 points while taking a 3-0 lead – and he did not need to produce a lot of magic to do it. Only one of these 14 initial points came via his own winner; 10 result from non-forced errors of Bautista Agut.
But the second set saw a change. Djokovic stopped his tactic until then successful of offering a little variety and heading to the net whenever he could. His forehand also became problematic, while Bautista Agut did not seem to miss a shot.
Bautista Agut has already beaten Djokovic twice earlier this season. Could he do it again?
No, largely because Djokovic has regained his best abilities. He was bigger in the longest points, ending up having a 29-17 advantage when they lasted at least 10 shots.
Once his volleyballer found the tape and slipped on the third set – the turnabout was a fair game, in this case, after the end of the previous set – the result seemed inevitable. Djokovic broke the score to lead 2-1 in the fourth and again for 4-1. It then took a handful of match points to seal the win.
Associated Press contributed to this report.