Rafael Nadal is excited for the next chapter of his enduring rivalry with Roger Federer.
The two greats – with 38 grand slams between them – will illuminate what has been an underwhelming men’s tournament at Wimbledon when they play in the semi-finals this afternoon.
Although they recently met at the same stage of the French Open last month, the 40th instalment of a thrilling match-up is the first at SW19 since the epic 2008 final – widely considered to be one of the best matches ever.
Nadal, who has won 24 of their previous meetings, emerged victorious that day, as he did in their match at his stronghold of Roland Garros a few weeks ago. But Centre Court is very much Federer’s territory and the 37-year-old is looking as dangerous as ever.
Nadal has improved considerably on grass in recent years, but knows he is coming up against the greatest on this surface. “I am excited about this match, excited about this opportunity to be again in that round against him,” he said.
“The opportunities to play against each other every time are less, but we are still here.
“I just expect to play against probably the best player in history on this surface, and know that I have to play my best if I want to have chances to try 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.”
Federer got the better of Nadal in the final of the Australian Open in 2017 and he believes that might have more significance than the recent loss at the French Open.
“Maybe the Australian Open final,” the Swiss said. “Obviously, best-of-five-set match, five sets.
“Then again I don’t know. It doesn’t matter anyway. Who cares? It’s about how has he played so far, how have I played so far. I hope it goes my way.
“It’s going to be tough, you know. Rafa really can hurt anybody on any surface. I mean, he’s that good. He’s not just a clay-court specialist, we know.”
World No 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic, pictured, is a heavy favourite for a sixth Wimbledon final as he takes on Roberto Bautista Agut.
The Spaniard has never got this far in a grand slam and clearly was not expecting to this year as he booked his stag do in Ibiza for this week.
He has beaten Djokovic twice in 2019, but the Serbian is hoping experience will carry him through.
“He’s been definitely playing some very, very high-quality tennis in this tournament,” Djokovic said.
“He has won twice against me so far this year. That’s certainly going to give him confidence coming into the match.
“Obviously playing on grass, it’s different. Semi-finals of a grand slam, I’m going to try to use my experience in being in these kind of matches, get myself tactically prepared.
“Hopefully I can execute everything I intend to do.”
Bautista Agut said: “He is very solid from baseline. He likes to play a lot of rallies.
“Well, I like to play against an opponent like this, to play a match with a lot of rallies. Against Novak, that’s what we do.”