Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will square off in the semifinals of Wimbledon in what will be the 52nd meeting between the two greats!
Nadal has worked his way through the main draw remarkably, and on the day that the great Roger Federer fell to Kevin Anderson, the Spaniard put up a spirited performance to edge Juan Martin del Potro and move into the semis, as he avoided suffering a similar quarterfinal fate to his eternal rival.
Djokovic, meanwhile, is having his best outing since his return from injury. Time and again, the super Serb has shown flashes of the brilliance, pedigree and mental strength that once saw him dominate the men’s tennis. Fair to say, the former world No.1 has rediscovered his mojo.
“Being absent from the tour for six months but then coming back, going back for surgery again as the season started, was too much mentally to handle,” Djokovic said.
“It took me two or three months and that was frustrating that I wasn’t able to perform the game that I was used to and the level of tennis I wanted to play.
“It’s starting to come together for me. I think that these performances here at Wimbledon have been the best I’ve had in the last 12 months. Hopefully I can maintain that.”
On Friday, he’ll encounter his biggest and toughest test yet when he faces the world number one, Rafael Nadal. And if Nadal thinks getting past Del Potro was herculean, he should wait for the Serbian.
Both players have locked horns FIFTY-ONE times, with Djokovic leading this epic head-to-head rivalry 26-25. The Serb came out on top in their last meeting at SW19 in 2011, when he won the title for the first time by beating Nadal in four sets. Four years before that Djokovic retired hurt in the third set of their semi-final, which is their only other previous meeting at the All England Club.
“Always is a big challenge to face Novak,” said Nadal. “[Novak] is one of the more complex players that I ever saw on our sport. Is always a big test. You know that you can’t win against him if you don’t play very well.
“I know that semifinals is one of these matches that anything could happen. I know if you don’t play very well, you will not have the chance to win.
“But I hope to be ready to play very well, and let’s see what’s going on. I know he’s playing very well.”
With Djokovic almost back to playing at his very best and with Nadal enjoying a bright spell at SW19, this promises to be spellbinding; nerve-jangling, even, given the history between these two players.
Skill, ability, athleticism, power, intelligence, respect, hunger, emotion will be on display… what these men don’t have isn’t worth knowing.