- 12 Jul 2019
There was a shake of the head from Roger Federer as he walked off Centre Court with roars reverberating around Wimbledon following another titanic tussle with Rafael Nadal.
Eleven years after he was beaten by Nadal in a classic final when they last met at SW19, it was the Swiss maestro who came out on top in the 40th edition of one of the great rivalries.
A buzz of anticipation over another epic showdown could be felt around the All England Club from the moment two legends sealed their passage into the semi-finals.
The thousands who packed into one of the most famous arenas on the planet perched on the edge of their seats as they witnessed the majestic Federer triumph 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-3 6-4, setting up a clash with Novak Djokovic on Sunday.
For three hours and two minutes those fortunate to have a ticket were mesmerised, looking on in disbelief at an astonishing exhibition between two icons who have 38 grand slam titles between them.
There were 51 winners unleashed from the racket of Federer, the 20-time major champion, and 32 from Spaniard Nadal just over a month after he blew his old foe away in the wind at the same stage of the French Open.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 12, 2019
The two sporting heavyweights were given a rapturous ovation as they strode out with a spring in their step in the sun, but you could have heard a pin drop when a mouthwatering contest got under way.
At the same auditorium where a sleeveless top revealed his bulging muscles and locks flowed to the bottom of his neck whey they locked horns in 2008, the intense Nadal still resembled a caged tiger ready to hunt his prey.
Federer, with a steely focus in his eyes, was like a coiled spring a month before he turns 38, coming forward at every opportunity as they traded punches in a tight first set.
It was first blood Federer after he twice came from a mini-break down to win a tense tie-break, but Nadal yanked up his sweat bands and barely put a foot wrong as he charged around the court at blistering speed to level a gripping match.
There would have been concerns for Federer fans when he skewed a forehand high into the crowd, yet he was calmness personified in the third, racing across the turf and aggressively moving a set away from another final.
Federer won a 25-shot rally in that third set and showed no signs of fatigue in the fourth, swatting away a majestic inside-out cross-court forehand winner before breaking to lead 2-1.
A rattled Nadal bellowed in the direction of his box as a calm Federer continued to draw gasps from the stands and way beyond in another masterclass.
Yet Nadal was never going to go down without a fight and many rose to their feet when he fizzed a thunderous backhand beyond Federer before he had a chance to react.
Nadal saved four match points in style, but Federer lifted his arms into the blue sky on a glorious Friday evening after reaching a 12th Wimbledon final.
He was among the majority who were shaking their head at the latest incredible show he and Nadal had served up.