Wimbledon 2019 on the BBC
Venue: All England Club Dates: 1-14 July
Coverage: Live across BBC TV, radio and online with extensive coverage on BBC iPlayer, Red Button, Connected TVs and mobile app. Full details

This was the match Wimbledon had been waiting so long for.

Eleven years on from their last meeting on the Centre Court grass – that remarkable 2008 final – Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with 38 Grand Slam titles between them, were back.

Their semi-final had its own hashtag, #FEDAL40, celebrating their 40th meeting. Henman Hill was so full that cordons were put in place to help ease overcrowding.

The queue for the resale ticket office was hundreds long yet there was little chance of any of the near 15,000 people on Centre Court budging from their seats.

David Beckham was back in the Royal Box for a second successive day to see his fellow sporting legends, Sir David Attenborough was on the edge of his seat and actors Jude Law and Hugh Grant were mesmerised by the unfolding drama.

This, as it proved and always was going to be, was one of those “I was there” moments.

It may not have been as dramatic as the 2008 final but the final stages were full of tension, with Nadal saving four match points. But it was Federer who clinched a 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-3 6-4 victory and the chance to take on defending champion Novak Djokovic on Sunday.

‘It was a masterclass from Federer’

Eight-time champion Federer is just four weeks shy of his 38th birthday but his performance against Nadal demonstrated just why, if not yet confirmed, he is considered the greatest tennis player to ever step foot on a court.

Swiss great Federer’s backhand has often been considered his weakness, as he has previously said himself, yet his work to improve this area of his game was evident with several sublime winners.

His movement, his resilience, his shot selection – they all point to a player at the peak of his powers, albeit one who is inevitably nearing the end of his career. But Spaniard Nadal – four years his junior – still came unstuck.

“Nadal dug his toes in, he knew he had to make Federer serve it out. We know they’re both very resilient players,” said former British number one Tim Henman on BBC Two.

“What surprised me was when the rallies extended out, it was Federer who was coming out on top. He was driving in, looking to finish the points at the net, and for three of four sets it was a masterclass from Federer.

“Historically we’ve seen Nadal dominate when he extends the rallies. At 37, Federer – you felt – might get tired but it was just phenomenal.

“Nadal was always playing catch up. Federer on his serve was always up 15-love you felt, Nadal was never really up love-15 and able to get the crowd on side.”

Federer’s eight Wimbledon titles are more than any other man in history and if he beats Djokovic he will match Martina Navratilova’s success in women’s singles.

His performance against Nadal perhaps set a precedent for what is to come on Sunday, but in Djokovic he faces a defending champion eager not to relinquish his title.

“It was surprising how aggressive and how consistent Federer was,” added Henman.

“On the back of that performance, it’s going to be very interesting to start thinking about the dynamics of the final.”

The stats

  • Roger Federer has an 11-1 win-loss record in Wimbledon semi-finals. His only defeat in the semi-finals here came against Canada’s Milos Raonic in 2016
  • At 37 years 340 days, Federer becomes the third oldest man to reach a Grand Slam final in the open era
  • Federer is making his 21st consecutive Wimbledon appearance and his 77th Grand Slam
  • Federer holds the open era record for the most career grass-court titles with 19 titles on the surface

What they said

Pat Cash: A near flawless #Federer defeats #Nadal to get into yet another #Wimbledon final! Godlike tennis from the 37-year-old. Unreal stuff!

Greg Rusedski: Roger Federer was absolutely brilliant today. His second serve stat for points won and his backhand were incredible today. What a champion performance. Credit to Nadal as well who gave everything.

Katie Boulter: What a privilege to still be watching these two men. Incredible.

What you said

KayK: That backhand of Federer should be declared as the eighth wonder of the world

Tom Brown: I do love Roger Federer. For me, he is the greatest sportsman of all time.

Marc Nash: The tennis world will never ever be the same when these guys are not around anymore. Two of the best sportsmen I’ve ever seen and they are now relatively old and still nobody can get near them.

Karl Bristow: Sometimes it feels like the game needs young stars to come through. But when you watch a high-quality match like that, you want Federer vs Nadal at Wimbledon forever.

Philip West: Federer has just laid the ghosts of 2008 to rest, and if that’s the final time he and Nadal play each other at #Wimbledon, what a match to close it out.

Now for Djokovic…

Novak Djokovic v Roger Federer graphic. Head to head wins (25v22); Grand Slam titles (15v20); Wimbledon titles (4v8)

Federer and Djokovic’s last meeting came at the Paris Masters last year but not since the 2015 Wimbledon final have they gone head-to-head on grass. Their last two meetings on this surface have resulted in Djokovic victories.

In fact on all surfaces, eight of their last 10 meetings have gone the Serb’s way. But Federer is someone who can never be written off.

“It’s just staggering. Nobody has really shown this sort of longevity – not at this level anyway,” said BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller.

But are there chinks in Federer’s armour?

“The only thing that slightly concerns me was that he admitted he was exhausted at the beginning of his interview,” added Fuller. “That must have delighted Novak Djokovic.”