Today at Wimbledon, we’ll see the 40th chapter in the long and storied rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Today’s semifinal will be their first match on grass since the epic 2008 Wimbledon final that is widely considered the greatest match of all time. As I write this, Novak Djokovic has just beaten Roberto Bautista-Agut and awaits the Federer-Nadal winner in the final.
Nadal pretty much erased Federer at the French Open six weeks ago, but then again, Rafa still pretty much erases everyone on clay, just as he’s done for his entire career. But Wimbledon is grass, Federer’s favorite surface, so we won’t see similar today. I don’t think there’s any way to overhype this match. It’s too bad it’s not the final, but the two-seed battling the three-seed seems right for a semi, with Novak having been the clear number-one for the past year.
Is it okay if I just accept that I’m not getting jack-shit done with my day until this match is over? I guess it has to be. Because I’m not getting jack-shit done until it’s over.
A Few Thoughts on the Match
At 1-1 in the second, Roger had double-break-point against Rafa’s serve. Rafa saved the first one, and then Roger flubbed the return on the next. Rafa won the next couple of points, and afterwards we witnessed something that I have come to understand as the crucial flaw in Federer’s game: he is capable of getting mad and staying mad at himself when he misses an opportunity. That’s clearly what happened here. Roger got broken at love in the next game, Rafa consolidated, and things only got worse as Rafa broke Roger again in Roger’s next service game. Rafa won the set comfortably, 6-1. An interesting statistic: Federer won only three of the final 23 points of that set after that missed return.
Oddly, though, it was Nadal who looked out of sorts the rest of the match. We got to see Rafa the Never-Give-Up Fighter at the very end of the match (starting at the two match points Rafa faced on his own serve at 3-5 in the fourth, through Roger’s break-point save at 30-40 5-4) but otherwise, for the final two sets, Roger was clearly in control. I can’t think of a time that I’ve seen Rafa look dejected, but his frustration was evident in the final set of the match. I’ll be curious to hear if he was dealing with a slight injury or an oncoming illness.
Roger won the match without burning too much energy. He’ll nevertheless be a substantial underdog against an on-fire Novak Djokovic, but we’ll cross our fingers and hope for a great final.