The last time Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal met at Wimbledon more than a decade ago, script writers turned the so-called greatest match of all time into a movie.
Now Federer and Nadal are preparing for a mouth-watering sequel to their “Strokes of Genius” showdown after setting up a box-office semi-final on Friday.
Eight-times champion Federer sealed his place in the semis for a 13th time with an historic 100th win at the All England Club, a 4-6 6-1 6-4 6-4 victory over Kei Nishikori, before Nadal confirmed a 40th instalment of their compelling rivalry with a 7-5 6-2 6-2 dismissal of Sam Querrey.
The two tennis titans haven’t collided at Wimbledon since Nadal denied Federer 9-7 in the deciding set of their epic 2008 final to claim the first of his two crowns on London’s famous grass court.
“It’s great. It’s difficult to imagine again being in that situation,” Nadal said.
“Excited to be back on this court against him after 11 years. Means a lot for me and probably for him, too.
“I just expect to play against probably the best player of the history in this surface and know that I have to play my best if I want to have chances to try to be in that final.
“I know he’s playing well. He feels comfortable here. And me, too. I’m playing well, too.”
The two most successful men’s performers in grand slam history will be going head to head at a major for the 13th time.
But in a first at Wimbledon, Federer and Nadal won’t be playing for the trophy – not that that changes too much, or reduces the stakes.
“We have a lot of information on Rafa, as does he on us,” Federer said after becoming the first man to notch a century of wins at Wimbledon and advancing to a mind-boggling 45th grand slam semi-final in all.
“So you can dive into the tactics like mad for two days, or you say ‘it’s grass court tennis so I’m going to come out and play my tennis’.
“People always hype it up. It was a joy to play against Rafa again on his court at the French Open (last month) and I’m very excited to play him here.”
After five consecutive losses to Federer starting from their 2017 Australian Open final, Nadal finally turned the tables on the 20-times major winner with a straight-sets success at Roland Garros en route to his 18th grand slam triumph.
Nadal, 33, leads 37-year-old Federer 24-15 head-to-head, but Federer said past results counted for nothing now.
“Who cares. It’s about how has he played so far, how have I played so far. I hope it goes my way,” Federer said.
“It’s going to be tough. Rafa really can hurt anybody on any surface. I mean, he’s that good. He’s not just a claycourt specialist, we know.”
Friday’s other semi-final will pit top-seeded titleholder Novak Djokovic against Spaniard Roberto Baustista Agut.
Bidding to match Bjorn Borg’s five titles, Djokovic booked his place in the last four for the ninth time with a 6-4 6-0 6-2 rout of Belgian David Goffin.
Bautista Agut, the 23rd seed, beat Argentine Guido Pella 7-5 6-4 3-6 6-3 in his quarter-final.