Roger Federer says Rafael Nadal can “hurt anyone on any surface” and dismissed the pair’s contrasting records on clay and grass as an indicator for who will triumph in their long-awaited Wimbledon rematch on Friday.
Federer and Nadal have not faced each other at the grass grand slam for 11 years since their historic battle in the 2008 final.
Federer earned his 100th Wimbledon win against Japan’s Kei Nishikori, while Nadal dismissed American Sam Querrey in straight sets to meet each other in a gigantic final-four clash.
The 37-year-old Swiss has been more successful on grass than any other surface, while his opposite Nadal has dominated the clay with 12 French Open titles.
But Federer says a lot has changed in 11 years apart and he has noticed some key weapons Nadal might use against him.
“Rafa really can hurt anybody on any surface,” said Federer.
“I mean, he’s that good. He’s not just a claycourt specialist. He’s playing also very different than he used to.
“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.”
Federer and Nadal have only played on grass three times and each match has been a Wimbledon final between 2006 and 2008. The 2008 final was the best of the trilogy.
Nadal’s epic five-set battle with Federer lasted four hours and 48 minutes and has been hailed as one of the greatest Wimbledon finals in history.
Nadal, aiming for a third Wimbledon title to add to his successes in 2008 and 2010, leads the overall head-to-head tally between the record-chasing pair with 24 wins and 15 losses.
While Nadal is known as the undisputed ‘king of clay,’ Federer has been the lord of the lawn with eight Wimbledon championships and became the first man to complete a century of victories at the All-England Club.
While Federer, who turns 38 next month, has seen 33-year-old Nadal’s game change on grass, the Swiss master has also evolved.
Federer, for example, switched to a larger racquet and began using a flatter backhand more frequently instead of a slice. Nadal has worked on his serving and that’s helped him once again be a contender on grass.
He reached the final during five consecutive Wimbledon appearances from 2006-11, winning twice, but hasn’t been that far since, including a series of exits against opponents ranked 100th or worse. Last year, he was beaten in five sets by Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.
“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,” Federer said.
Djokovic is seeking his fifth trophy, and second straight, at the All England Club, while his opponent on Friday, Roberto Bautista Agut is making his grand slam semi-final debut.
Djokovic leads 7-3 head-to-head, but Bautista Agut won their two match-ups this season, both on hard courts.
“Going to try to use my experience in being in these kind of matches, get myself tactically prepared,” Djokovic said.
“Hopefully I can execute everything I intend to do.”
MEN’S WIMBLEDON SEMI-FINAL MATCH-UPS ON FRIDAY (PREFIX DENOTES SEEDING)
1-Novak Djokovic (SRB) v 23-Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)
2-Roger Federer (SUI) v 3-Rafael Nadal (ESP)