The stars have aligned — and now they’re meeting at Centre Court.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal won their quarterfinal matches in men’s singles Wednesday, and Friday will face each other yet again in a Wimbledon semifinal, their first meeting on these hallowed grass courts in 11 years.
“Excited to be back on this court against him after 11 years,” said Nadal, who won 9-7 in the fifth set against Federer in that legendary 2008 final, one that lasted almost seven hours in part because of rain delays. “Means a lot for me and probably for him too.”
Also making a march through the men’s draw is defending champion Novak Djokovic. He will play Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, who despite being the 23rd seed has lost just one set in this year’s tournament (15-1). That said, this is the furthest Bautista Agut has gone in a grand slam event.
But the spotlight will be squarely fixed on Federer versus Nadal, who are playing each other for the 40th time, with Nadal owning a 24-15 advantage. Most of that edge happened on clay surfaces, however. The two have only played three times on grass, with Federer leading that count, 2-1.
The two recently played each other in the semifinals of the French Open, with Nadal winning, but Federer won their previous five meetings.
“Rafa really can hurt anybody on any surface,” Federer said. “I mean, he’s that good.”
That Federer and Nadal, who have 10 Wimbledon titles between them, haven’t played each other here in 11 years is surprising to author Jon Wertheim, who chronicled the epic 2008 final in his book, “Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played.”
“It’s remarkable that it has been 11 years since they’ve played each other at Wimbledon,” Wertheim said. “Eleven years used to be two careers’ worth. And to think that not only are these guys back on Centre Court playing, but they’re two and three in the rankings, they’re both playing every bit as well as they did 11 years ago.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they’re both here. This rivalry has really pushed them and sustained them. If there’s no Rafa, I don’t think Roger’s playing at 37. If there’s no Roger, I don’t think Nadal is still putting his body through this.”
Federer bounced back against Kei Nishikori after being broken in the opening game of the match and losing the first set. He rallied by winning three consecutive sets, closing out his record 100th victory at Wimbledon.
It was an autograph seeker who alerted Federer to that career milestone.
“As I’m signing, the guy says, ‘Congratulations for your 100,’ ” he said. “Oh, yeah, I didn’t know. I forgot.”
Federer said he has been feeling particularly good lately.
“Even if I’m down a set or down a break, no hurry there,” he said. “I stay calm. I feel like I have the 1-2 punch sort of under control.”
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are something of a 1-2-3 punch. This will be the 13th time the so-called “Big Three” have reached the semifinals together in a grand slam tournament. However, it’s the first time the trio has simultaneously gotten this far at Wimbledon since 2007.
The odds don’t look great for Bautista Agut winning it all. Since 2009, when the Big Three has gotten to the semifinals of a grand slam together, one of the trio has won every time but once, the exception being Juan Martin del Potro winning the 2009 U.S. Open.
Crowd favorites Andy Murray and Serena Williams were eliminated from mixed doubles by the No. 1 seeds, Bruno Soares and Nicole Melichar.
“We had so much fun,” Williams said. “We aren’t ready for it to be over. But we both are obviously focused on our health, both of us actually, taking it literally one day at a time, seeing what happens from there.”