Friday's semi-finals at Wimbledon, between second seed Roger Federer and third Rafael Nadal, have already been dubbed "XL" to commemorate the 40th meeting of their FedEx ATP Head2Head series (Nadal tops 24-15 ). When they compete on grass for the first time since their 2008 classic final at the All England Club, the clash will provide all the ingredients for another major chapter in one of the most iconic rivalries of the sport.
"I'm just waiting to play against probably the best player in the history of this surface and I know I have to play my best if I want to have chances to try to be in this final, "said Nadal. "[To] playing against Roger is always a unique situation. Excited to be back on this court against him after 11 years. It means a lot to me and probably to him too.
Who will win the last installment of this @ FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry?
Nadal leads the series 24-15. | <a href = "https://twitter.com/hashtag/Wimbledon? src = hash & ref_src = twsrc% 5Etfw "> # Wimbledon
– ATP Tour (@ATP_Tour) July 11, 2019
The two men are in top shape for a fortnight. Federer hit 206 winners with 88 unresolved errors in his five games at The Championships and produced a winner error rate of at least 2: 1 in three of them. His quarter-final win over Kei Nishikori made him the first man to win 100 Grand Slam championship wins.
Most Grand Slam wins
Meanwhile, Nadal was equally dominant. After having the last word in a titanic victory in the second round on Nick Kyrgios, the Spaniard has found an even higher level on the grass. In his last three games, he has beaten 109 winners – 34 unresolved mistakes. Nadal also raised the stakes in his return matches, amassing 35 pauses and converting 16 points.
Nadal's run to the semi-finals has just marked his second defeat for the last four at Wimbledon. When he achieved the same feat in 2008, he won the title on Federer.
Federer wins 100th historic victory
Nadal fight off Querrey
Roger & Rafa: Every game has been played
Nadal is the first to qualify for 2019 #NittoATPFinals
The memorable match of Federer 100: 10 wins at SW19
Their league match this year is considered by many to be one of the greatest matches in tennis history, so iconic that it inspired a book and even a documentary released last year. It took Nadal four hours and 48 minutes to finally survive Federer in five sets for his first crown at Wimbledon. The Swiss then said that this match was "probably my biggest defeat by far". Eleven years later, it is possible that this statement is still true for him.
Since then, the clock has rocked several times in the rivalry between Federer and Nadal. The Spaniard won the five matches played in 2013-2014, then Federer broke the series in the 2015 Basel final before winning four more victories in 2017, including a five-set thriller in the final. Australian Open. Nadal finally turned the tables last month in the semi-finals at Roland Garros, dominating the Swiss in sets, before clinching his 12th title on Court Philippe Chatrier (Thiem).
But for Federer, what happens in Paris stays in Paris. When they go to the central courtyard, the slate will be cleansed of his mind.
"It does not matter anyway. We do not care. It's about how did he play up to now? How did I play until now? I hope it will be to my taste, "said Federer. "It is going to be difficult. Rafa can really hurt anyone on any surface. He is so good. This is not just a specialist in dirt pitches.
No matter what happens on Friday, their last meeting reflects the longevity and longevity of both men. Their first match took place more than 15 years ago at the Miami Open presented by Itau. Many of their peers in this year's draw have long since retired, but Federer and Nadal have not only continued to remain elite players on the ATP circuit, but they have put themselves in a position of win Grand Slam titles.
"Many of them [were] saying [about Nadal] "Oh, that's the end" in 2008. Similar to me in 2009. We're still here, "said Federer. "So, it's good to be playing again."
It is a feeling with which Nadal agrees.
"Excited for this game, excited for this opportunity to be back in this round against him," he said. "I always say the same thing: of course there are fewer opportunities to play against each other, but we are still here."