The world's leading players Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were the players to beat at Majors in 2019, overcoming all the obstacles from Roger Federer and younger challengers to lift two titles each. Nadal was victorious at Roland Garros and the US Open, improving his tally to 19 Major crowns and standing just one behind Roger Federer who wasted his opportunity in that epic Wimbledon final, squandering two match points against Novak Djokovic.
The Serb grabbed the seventh Australian Open title before Wimbledon, claiming four Grand Slam titles in the last two years to move in front of Pete Sampras and trail four titles behind Roger on the eternal GOAT quest. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had the opportunity to revive their Grand Slam rivalry on the European soil, facing in the semi-final at Roland Garros for the first time since 2011 and at Wimbledon after that epic 2008 final.
As was expected, Rafa scored victory in Paris while Roger crossed the finish line first in London, with the Spaniard taking ten of their 14 Major encounters between 2005-19. Nadal clinched a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory at Roland Garros in two hours and 25 minutes to advance into the 12th final at his beloved Major.
Fourteen years after the first semi-final clash at Roland Garros, Roger and Rafa were engaged in another battle for the final at clay Major, with the Spaniard earning his 24th triumph over Federer in 39 encounters, the 14th in 16 meetings on the slowest surface and the tenth in 13 Grand Slam duels.
Losing the previous five matches against Roger and seeking the first win since the Australian Open 2014, Nadal was determined to finally outplay a great rival and extend his dominance in Paris, securing the 92nd triumph from 94 matches at the favorite tournament!
Nadal hit 33 winners and 19 unforced errors, facing four break chances and getting broken only twice to mount the pressure on the other side. Roger needed much more than that to challenge the greatest clay courter in his first semi-final in Paris since 2012, firing 25 winners but also 34 errors that usually plague his chances over Rafa on clay.
The Spaniard converted six out of 16 break opportunities to control the scoreboard, defending superbly and finding an empty court from tough positions to neutralize Roger's attacks and keep the Swiss outside the comfort zone as much as possible.
The conditions were tough and windy, especially in the first set where they both struggled to find the rhythm and impose their shots. Things improved from set number two and it was Nadal who took the upper hand from the closing stages, playing well on both serve and return to leave Roger far behind and advance into the second final in a row after conquering the title in Rome in May.
Opening a 3-0 lead, Rafa lost the advantage in the middle of the opening set before scoring another break at 3-2 when Roger's forehand laned in the net. The Spaniard completed the opener with a hold in game nine before Roger raised the level at the beginning of the second set to forge a 2-0 lead.
Wasting a game point, Roger got broken in game three after a forehand winner from Nadal who had the momentum again, holding after deuce in game eight and never looking back. He broke Roger in the next game from 40-0 down, taking five points in a row and clinching the pivotal break with a volley winner that proved the be the crucial moment of the entire encounter.
Holding at love in game ten, Nadal moved two sets to love up after an hour and 45 minutes, determined to get the job done in the third set. Federer had nothing more left in the tank, unable to end Nadal's streak and to find the way of imposing his strokes and change the course of the match.
Nadal broke in games three and five, sealing the deal with a hold at 5-2 for yet another final in his kingdom where he faced Dominic Thiem. Eager to change things at Wimbledon, Roger took down Rafa 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 to advance into the final, scoring only the second Major triumph over Nadal after Wimbledon 2007 and getting revenge for that 2008 loss in the title match.
It was the seventh victory for Roger over Rafa in the last eight meetings, advancing into the 12th Wimbledon final, 16 years since the first one! Federer threw everything he had on the rival to keep the points on his racquet and unfold the rallies in the way he wanted, defending his backhand nicely and avoided slices and lengthy exchanges to hit in full throttle, especially in sets three and four.
Determined to go at least one step further than a year ago and advance into the first Wimbledon final since 2011, Rafa gave his best in sets one and two, dropping a tight opening set and having the upper hand in the second to level the overall score and boost his chances.
Roger gave the second set away, preparing for the third where he had the advantage that settled him into the winning rhythm, playing in the same style in the fourth to cross the finish line and stay on the course for the ninth Wimbledon crown just a couple of weeks before turning 38.
Roger landed 51 winners and 27 unforced errors, leaving Rafa on a 32-25 ratio and performing better on the return to create the crucial element of his win. Both players converted two break chances and Federer addressed those in the more important moments to celebrate the 101st victory at the All England Club.
In the opening set, Roger ruled the court in the mid-range exchanges, with only one break point in the entire set that Rafa saved in the eighth game to set up a tie break where Roger rattled off five points in a row for a 7-3.
In set number two, they both saved break points early in the set and it was all about Nadal after that, taking five straight games to leave Federer behind and level the overall score ahead of more drama and excitement. Starting from the beginning, Federer was thundering again in the third set, hitting 15 winners and just two unforced errors and breaking Rafa in game four to forge the advantage that he carried home with a hold at love at 5-3 that moved him closer to the finish line.
The Swiss broke again in the third game of the fourth set to gain the advantage, wasting match point on Nadal's serve at 5-3 and fending off a break chance in the thrilling next game to seal the deal and march into the final after capturing the fifth match point.