Nadal-Djokovic semis duel headlines Wimbledon's over-30 club
LONDON, United Kingdom – For the first time in the Open era, the men's singles semifinals at a Grand Slam will be contested exclusively by the over-30 club.
The last 4 of the Wimbledon men's singles – Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, John Isner, Kevin Anderson – are all aged 30 or overr.
Nadal is through to a Grand Slam semifinal for the 5th time since turning 30, while Djokovic has reached the last 4 at a major for the first time since his 30th birthday.
The winner between Anderson and Isner, meanwhile, will go second on the Open era list for most attempts before reaching the Wimbledon final behind Marin Cilic, who set the record last year after reaching the final on his 11th Wimbledon appearance.
Nadal described long-time rival Djokovic as "one of the more complex" players he's ever met as they prepare to clash for the 52nd time on Friday, July 13, with a Wimbledon final spot at stake.
World number one Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 champion at the All England Club, trails Djokovic, the 2011, 2014 and 2015 winner, 26-25 in a rivalry which began at Roland Garros 12 years ago.
"It's always a big challenge to face Novak," said 32-year-old Nadal, who is back in the semifinals at Wimbledon for the first time since 2011 when he finished runner-up to Djokovic.
"He is one of the more complex players that I ever saw in our sport. You know that you can't win against him if you don't play very well."
Nadal is chasing an 18th Grand Slam title which would put him just two behind Roger Federer, who was sensationally knocked out in the quarterfinals by Anderson.
For his part, Djokovic is eyeing a 13th major after making the semifinals of a Slam for the first time since finishing runner-up at the 2016 US Open.
This time last year, few would have expected to see either man back in the last 4 at the All England Club.
Nadal was knocked out in the fourth round, losing 13-11 in the final set to Luxembourg journeyman Gilles Muller.
On four of his previous five visits to south-west London, he had been defeated by players outside the top 100.
Djokovic's 2017 Wimbledon campaign ended in a quarterfinal retirement with an elbow injury which led to surgery and precipitated a worrying dip in form and confidence.
When he lost in the French Open quarterfinals to world number 72 Marco Cecchinato last month, he even suggested he was ready to skip Wimbledon this year as his ranking slipped to 22, his lowest since August 2006.
But the 31-year-old has been rejuvenated at Wimbledon, sweeping into the semifinals for the eighth time.
Not up too the standard
"My results were not up to the standard that I had before," said Djokovic after beating Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals.
"At the same time, I'm trying to use the experience and memories that I have of being in the final stages of Grand Slams, just take things very simple, day by day."
Nadal had not dropped a set at the tournament until the quarterfinals where he fought back to defeat Juan Martin del Potro 7-5, 6-7 (7/9), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 on Wednesday.
That 4-hour and 48-minute epic put him into his 6th Wimbledon semifinal and 28th at the majors.
Friday's other semifinal pits Anderson, the 8th seed who lost to Nadal in last year's US Open final, against 9th-seeded American John Isner.
Both men are in the semifinals at Wimbledon for the first time.
Anderson is the first South African to make the last 4 since Kevin Curren in 1983.
Isner had never got past the third round at Wimbledon before this year while a run to the last 8 at the 2011 US Open had been his previous best at the majors.
Their clash, however, may not be easy on the eye.
Isner hasn't been broken in 95 service games and has fired 161 aces.
"I think after each win throughout these 10 days, I've had a Kit Kat. I'm not going to change that now," said the American.
Anderson has 123 aces to his name. – Rappler.com