Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Roger, Rafa to meet 11 years after Wimbledon epic

Roger Federer, left, and Rafael Nadal shake hands after Federer's 6-2, 6-3
victory in the fourth round of the 2017 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
Photo by Mal Taam
   Some consider it the greatest tennis match ever.
   In the 2008 Wimbledon final, Rafael Nadal subdued Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (8), 9-7 in 4 hours, 48 minutes. The epic was immortalized in the 2018 documentary "Strokes of Genius."
   Federer and Nadal – who rank first and second with 20 and 18 Grand Slam singles titles, respectively – will meet on grass for the first time since then in Friday's second Wimbledon semifinal. That will follow the 5 a.m. PDT matchup between Novak Djokovic, who ranks third with 15 major singles crowns, and Roberto Bautista Agut. ESPN will televise both matches live.
   Nadal, 33, is 24-15 against Federer, 37. The Swiss maestro has a 2-1 edge on grass, having beaten Spanish star in the 2006 and 2007 Wimbledon finals.
   Federer, who made his Northern California debut in a San Jose exhibition last year, has won a record eight singles titles at the All England Lawn Tennis Club and Nadal two.
   "He has improved so much over the years on this surface," the second-seeded Federer, who topped eighth-seeded Kei Nishikori 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4, told reporters. "He's playing also very different than he used to. Haven't played each other in a long, long time on this surface. He's serving way different. I remember back in the day how he used to serve, and now how much bigger he's serving, how much faster he finishes points.
   "A lot of (people were) saying, 'Oh, it's the end,' by 2008. Similar to me in '09. We're still here, so it's nice to play each other again."
   Nadal, seeded third, beat unseeded Sam Querrey, a 31-year-old San Francisco native, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 to reach the semifinals for the second consecutive year. Querrey, 6-foot-6 (1.98 meters), had 22 aces and only three double faults.
   "It's a great feeling to be back in the semifinals, be able to play at this level," Nadal said. " ... (I'm) very happy the way that we managed to be in that round. Now to play against Roger always is a unique situation. Excited to be back on this court against him after 11 years. Means a lot for me and probably for him, too."
   Djokovic, the top seed and defending champion, needed only 1 hour, 57 minutes to dispatch 21st-seeded David Goffin of Belgium 6-2 6-0, 6-2.
   Bautista Agut, a Spanish veteran seeded 23rd, eliminated 26th-seeded Guido Pella, a left-hander from Argentina, 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal. Bautista Agut missed Wimbledon last year with groin and abdomen injuries.
   Djokovic is 7-3 against Bautista Agut, who has won the last two encounters, this year on hard courts in three sets in Doha and Miami. The players have never met on grass.
   In the third round of mixed doubles, top-seeded Bruno Soares of Brazil and Nicole Melichar of Stuart, Fla., beat unseeded Andy Murray and Serena Williams, a part-time Silicon Valley resident, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
   Murray was playing in his third tournament, all in doubles, since undergoing hip surgery in January. He won the first of his 45 tour-level singles titles – 14th in the Open Era and fourth among active players behind Federer, Nadal and Djokovic – at 18 in the 2006 SAP Open in San Jose and repeated the following year.

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