Rafael Nadal: 'Playing against Roger Federer always thrills me'

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Rafael Nadal: 'Playing against Roger Federer always thrills me'
Rafael Nadal: 'Playing against Roger Federer always thrills me' (Provided by Tennis World USA)

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal met for the first time in Miami 2004, with the 17-year-old stunning world no. 1 in straight sets. Since then, Roger and Rafa have battled for the world's most prestigious titles and pushed each other to the limits to draw the best from their rivalry.

Due to injuries on both sides, their last official match came at Wimbledon 2019, when Roger defeated Rafa 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and two minutes to set the title clash against Novak Djokovic. It was the 16th victory for the Swiss over the Spaniard and the seventh in the previous eight encounters.

Roger advanced to his 12th Wimbledon final, 16 years after the first one in 2003, delivering his old magic to grab the fourth triumph over Rafa at Majors. Roger and Rafa met for the fourth time at Wimbledon, the first since that epic 2008 clash when Nadal prevailed in five sets to lift the title.

This time, it was all about Federer, who threw everything on the rival and kept the points on his racquet. Defending his backhand correctly, Federer avoided slices and lengthy exchanges to hit in full throttle, taming his shots nicely and overpowering Nadal in sets three and four to advance into the title clash.

Eager to go at least one step further than a year ago and make the first Wimbledon final since 2011, Rafa gave his best in sets one and two, dropping a tight opener and having the upper hand in the second to level the overall score.

Still, Federer proved to be too strong in the third and fourth. The Swiss had 51 winners and 27 unforced errors, leaving Rafa on a 32-25 ratio and playing better on the return, which gave him the crucial advantage. Both players converted two break chances, and Federer delivered those in the more critical moments to celebrate the 101st All England Club victory.

Federer had the advantage in the mid-range exchanges in the opening set, with only one break chance in the entire set that Rafa saved at 3-4. It went into a tie break, and Roger clinched it 7-3 after rattling off five straight points.

They both repelled break chances in games two and three in set number two, with Nadal taking charge and taking five consecutive games to leave Federer far behind.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer met for the last time at Wimbledon 2019.

The Spaniard returned almost every Roger's serve and claimed 60% of the return points, scoring breaks in games four and six and gaining a massive momentum ahead of set number three.

Starting from the beginning, Federer was thundering again, hitting 15 winners and 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. The Swiss broke again in the fourth set's third game to forge the lead before wasting a match point on Nadal's serve in the ninth game.

Giving his best to prolong the battle, Rafa created a break opportunity at 4-5 that Roger denied and sealed the deal a few minutes later. Speaking about the match, Rafa said it felt nice to face Roger at Wimbledon again, praising the rival and his abilities for delivering aggressive and sharp tennis.

"It was nice to play Roger Federer again at Wimbledon. The rivalries over the years are valued differently; we both know what our matches have represented for the tennis world and what it means to face now. We talked before the tournament because we are together in the Players Council, and we are usually in contact, but before the game, it's not usual to talk too much.

I lacked a bit of pace that day; he played very aggressive and brave tennis, at a speed challenging to follow. I was not at the level of the previous matches either, but he was better than me; he was just the winner. Playing against Federer is always special, especially on a stage like this," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal Roger Federer Wimbledon