Tennis

Wimbledon: Eleven years after epic, Federer conquers Nadal on Centre Court

Vintage: Roger Federer attacked from the word go, beating Rafael Nadal in four sets to enter his 12th Wimbledon final.  

It didn’t quite reach the levels it had eleven summers ago here on Centre Court, but Roger Federer put on a display worthy of his rich grass-court history to beat Rafael Nadal 7-6(3), 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 and enter his 12th Wimbledon final.

In Sunday’s title-clash, he will encounter World No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s wiry, elastic genius which weathered a tough challenge from Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Living up to the hype

The first set, though, lived up to the hype, as both players fought each other to a standstill. Federer, true to his word, attacked from the word go in order to hustle Nadal.

The Spaniard found himself a breakpoint down at 3-4, but found a way by pounding Federer’s backhand side.

In turn, he pressured the Federer serve at 4-4, but the latter drilled an ace at 30-30 and held on. Inevitably, the set slipped into a tie-break where Federer made the play by reeling off five straight points from 2-3 and finished with a forehand winner.

Complete breakdown

Early in the second set, following a few nervous holds from both players, Nadal broke Federer to love to go 3-1 up.

The Swiss’ serve broke down completely and a game as tightly wound as his is to the serve, it collapsed with Nadal taking the set 6-1.

But Federer regained his mojo in the third, able to summon the serve which had earlier given up on him.

He broke to 3-1, following up a great backhand winner with a forehand crosscourt before winning a net exchange. Nadal nearly broke back immediately, but Federer held on, even finishing on the right side of 25-shot rally to ward off a break point.

Federer’s two subsequent holds were first-rate, for a combined loss of just one point.

Nadal’s tactic of attacking Federer’s backhand came undone, as Federer, with a larger racquet head, not just sliced but even drove many powerfully.

Overall, he hit 15 winners to just two unforced errors in that set.

The eight-time champion broke in the third game of the fourth and maintained it.

With Nadal serving at 3-5, Federer even had two match points, both of which the 12-time French Open champion saved with service winners. A nervous hold ensued with Nadal saving two more match points. But Federer wouldn’t be denied the victory.

Compared to the electric setting that welcomed Federer and Nadal, Djokovic-Agut clash was played at room temperature.

Unlike a typical Spanish grinder, Agut wields a flatter stroke. Djokovic, perhaps mindful of this, hit with way more topspin than usual. But by the time Agut could get wind of it, Djokovic had broken twice to take the first set. However, Agut came into his own in the second, breaking to go 2-1 up, courtesy a delightful inside-out winner. He did squander the chance to take a 4-1 lead but didn’t let his level drop.

Deceptive change

The 31-year-old often fell back on his inside-out forehand and such was his positioning that he could deceptively change direction and go for the inside-in too to drive it down the line.

The opening five games of the third set were tight. In the sixth game though, Djokovic pressured Agut’s serve. At 15-15, an engaging all-court rally ended with the Serb reading a lob right and executing a remarkable on the turn pass.

The 32-year-old then pinned Agut to the backhand corner twice and knocked off volleys to break open the set.

Serving to gain a 4-2 lead in the fourth, the World No. 1 fell behind 15-40 but three good serves and a glorious down-the-line backhand to end 45-shot rally seemed to liberate him completely.

Djokovic had sunk his teeth into the match. The victory was had not long after.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 3:15:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/wimbledon-eleven-years-after-epic-federer-conquers-nadal-on-centre-court/article28416672.ece

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