If Roger Federer's going to win a record ninth championship at Wimbledon, he'll need to follow up a victory over Rafael Nadal with one over defending champion Novak Djokovic. "Rafa played some unbelievable shots to stay in the match, it was a very high level", said Federer. "I lost to a great champion, somebody that has the most Grand Slams in the history of the sport".
When he takes to Centre Court on Sunday he will enjoy considerable support against a man who has been no less formidable at the All England Club these past two weeks, and who is gunning to move one step closer to Federer's record Grand Slam haul.
Against expectations, Federer brushed off the disappointment of that 6-1 set and wrestled the initiative back, winning the lengthier rallies and baseline exchanges against a player so used to grinding his opponents down. Both players started off with some attractive rallies, as Nadal's resilience and Federer's backhand had the crowd riveted.
"The day of the test you're not going to read, I don't know, how many books that day".
Each of the last 10 major tournaments has been won by Federer, Nadal or Djokovic. I played a great event.
A third match point and a Nadal victor.
Nadal said 37-year-old Federer's qualities remain undimmed and constant.
Federer did other things well against Nadal, including dulling his improved serve with superb returning.
"I've played with Roger in some epic finals here a couple years in a row, so I know what to expect".
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"Then the climax at the end with the insane last game, some tough rallies there - it had everything at the end, which was great, I guess". Nadal saved another two match points with breathtaking backhand winners.
Competing in an era alongside Federer and Nadal, and earlier with pretender to the throne Andy Murray, he has racked up an incredible 15 Grand Slams and is still 32 - the youngest of the "Big Three".
Federer and Nadal hadn't played since then at Wimbledon until their semifinal Friday. Nadal could not get back on serve and Federer won 6-3 to get within one set of the final.
Federer was in no mood to celebrate, though, with such a huge match to come on Sunday.
Once his volley victor found the net tape and trickled over to cap the third set - turnabout was fair play, in this instance, after the way the previous set ended - the outcome seemed inevitable.
That, along with a stormy second-round win over Kyrgios, fueled his fire and the only set he dropped in a marauding run to the semi-final was against the maverick Australian.
To date, head-to-head, Federer has served more aces on 35 out of the 47 occasions they have met, including all the times they have met on grass, with five ties.
His reward? A date with Novak Djokovic, who needed four sets to beat Roberto Bautista Agut in the first semifinal on Centre Court. It was 3-2 after easy holds by each, but Nadal, perhaps staging a last stand, was ahead 15-30.
Djokovic pointed to his ear, another message to the crowd, when he lashed a backhand down the line to win a remarkable 45-shot point and save break point in his next service game.
Four-time Wimbledon victor and defending champion Djokovic enjoys a 25-22 edge in career meetings, stretching back 13 years.