Once again, we’re looking at the semifinals of the Grand Slam, and in the men’s bracket, two familiar foes will meet for the 40th time in Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. It’s a rivalry that has been prominent for well over a decade, and though they haven’t played each other in a Grand Slam final since 2017, the stakes are just as high in the semifinals.
It’s the semifinals where I prefer to see these matches these days. The Big Three (including Novak Djokovic) have been extremely dominant, and many would like to see new players win Slams on the men’s side, and I think that plays into liking these matches in the semifinals. Of course, the opens the door to either Federer or Nadal getting gassed and then annihilated by Djokovic in the final, but it’s still Federer vs. Nadal.
And that’s always a big deal.
Nadal and Federer first faced each other in singles competition in 2004, when Nadal bested Federer on the hard court at the Miami Open. Federer won their next bout at the same tournament a year later. They went on to face each other 39 total times, including 13 times in Grand Slam tournaments.
They’ve faced each other three times at Wimbledon, with Federer winning two of the three matches. The last time they met at Wimbledon was 2008, when Nadal beat Federer in the final to earn his first title on the grass courts of the All England Club.
Overall, Nadal leads Federer in the head-to-head, 24-15, but that includes far more matches on clay courts, Nadal’s specialty, than grass courts, Federer’s specialty. They are far more evenly-matched than the head-to-head implies, but at this stage in their careers, they’re harder to predict than they’ve ever been.
For me, that’s more fun. I’m one of those tennis fans who have always liked both Federer and Nadal, and while I’d love to see someone as legendary as the former win more slams before he calls it a career (he certainly doesn’t play like a 37-year-old!), it’s more about the spectacle and the great rivalry.
The matches aren’t always close. Sometimes one guy comes out and just stomps the other. But there’s nothing like two of the best to ever play the game going head-to-head. It’s like a title unification bout in boxing.
Yes, Djokovic is the No. 1-ranked player in the world and you should also be excited for his semifinal against Roberto Bautista Agut, and Djokovic vs. Federer or Nadal is always worth watching, as well. But there’s something special about Federer vs. Nadal, and it’s something that we may not get to see for much longer as both guys get up there in years.
Buckle up, folks. It should be a fun one on Friday morning.