Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal one win away from Wimbledon rematch
It’s almost here.
If Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal win their quarterfinals Wednesday, they would clash at Wimbledon for the first time since the 2008 final, considered by many to be the greatest tennis match ever.
But if you think Federer and Nadal are guaranteed to meet again Friday, consider this: Kei Nishikori and Sam Querrey, who face the Swiss and Spaniard, respectively, won the last duels in those matchups.
Japan’s Nishikori triumphed over Federer in the same city, too, at last year’s ATP Finals in London, while American Querrey — who bettered Nadal in Acapulco in 2017 — leads this year’s Wimbledon serving stats with a mammoth 100 aces.
Nishikori joined Nadal and Novak Djokovic as the lone players on both tours to make the quarterfinals at all three majors played so far in 2019 and unlike in the previous two, will be well rested for the contest against the 20-time grand slam winner.
“I feel like I am very confident this week, playing good tennis,” said world No. 7 Nishikori, who has only dropped one set so far, like Federer. “I’m happy to be playing Roger now because I think I’m in good shape.”
That’s a contrast to the Australian and French Opens.
In Melbourne, Nishikori contested three five-setters, then unluckily drew tournament king Djokovic.
He retired in the second set, citing a thigh injury brought on by his marathon encounters.
And at Roland Garros, coming off two five-setters, he had to tangle with “King of Clay” Nadal and was no match for the record 12-time tournament champion.
‘Everything is sort of pink’
Federer, bidding for a ninth Wimbledon title, isn’t expecting an easy time despite overall owning a 7-3 record against the 2014 US Open finalist.
It sure can’t be as easy as Federer’s fourth round, when he crushed big-serving Italian upstart Matteo Berrettini in 74 minutes. Berrettini’s coach admitted his charge was taught a lesson.
“I think it’s going to be tough,” Federer said of Nishikori. “He’s getting into quarters with a lot of energy. I remember some of the slams recently he arrived into the later stages of slams with maybe some tough matches going into it. So far it’s been really easy for him.
“I’m a big fan of his game. I think he’s got one of the best backhands in the game that we have right now. He’s a great return player. Solid mentally. I always thought he was a great talent.”
But then Federer gave an insight into his view of the world when he is in the zone.
“Everything is just sort of pink, it’s just happy out there. It just feels nice,” he told reporters.
“Then you rock up to a ball. You’re like, ‘I know I’m not going to miss one.’ You hit a winner. Then you do the same again and again. That’s probably one of the best feelings you can get as a tennis player on a tennis court.”
‘Can we predict the future?’
Nadal similarly owns a commanding 4-1 record against Querrey but the American has become quite the giant killer at Wimbledon having knocked off Djokovic and Andy Murray when they were the reigning champions.
“When he plays well, he can be very, very dangerous in all surfaces,” said Nadal, who bagged the last of his two Wimbledon titles in 2010. “But, of course, in fast surfaces, when he serves with his aggressive game, maybe more.”
Nadal defended the tournament scheduling on “Manic Monday” after he was asked whether women’s No. 1 Ashleigh Barty should have played on Center Court instead of him, especially with the way their matches ended.
Barty fell in a three-set thriller to Alison Riske, with Nadal routing pal Joao Sousa in one hour, 45 minutes.
“But can we predict the future or not?” Nadal asked.
“She’s the world No. 1,” the reply came, to which Nadal countered: “I am the world No. 2 and I won 18 Grand Slams.”
The press corps erupted in laughter.
Closing on Federer
His latest victory at the French Open moved Nadal to within two majors of Federer for the first time ever, which would add spice should they battle again Friday. If it’s needed.
Nadal might have the psychological edge since he beat Federer in hurricane like winds in Paris last month in the semifinals in the 37-year-old’s return to the clay-court slam. Not to mention winning in the 2008 finale in four hours, 48 minutes to end Federer’s five-year reign.
The other member of the Big Three, Djokovic, was unsuccessful in his quest to land a fourth straight grand slam for the second time, undone by those winds and Dominic Thiem in the last four.
The defending champion’s path to the final looks relatively comfortable, even if Wednesday’s foe David Goffin — a regular practice partner — reached the final in Halle last month.
The winner plays either Roberto Bautista Agut or maiden grand slam quarterfinalist Guido Pella.
“Hopefully a long and successful week, second week,” said Djokovic.
The hope for most tennis fans is that Federer and Nadal line up on opposite sides of the net Friday.