The entire centre court at SW19 is silent. People sitting on Henman Hill aren't making noise either. Everyone is praying. The score is 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-3, 5-4 (ad) with Federer. It is his fifth match point. He has seen two come and go in Nadal's previous service game. He has lost two in this service game. Nadal is not giving up. He makes it worst and misses the first service. The second serve is made, and they go into a rally. Federer hits a beautiful forehand down the line, and Nadal can only hit the ball long. Federer raises both his hands in the air and enjoys the occasion. Then the two greats meet and share a warm embrace at the net. They are two brilliant competitors and great friends. The crowd erupts. Everyone is on their feet. David Beckham is caught on the camera saying 'Unbelievable' as the two make their way out. That was indeed an unbelievable match.
Both of them had high expectations to meet. The Wimbledon final between these two in 2008, is arguably considered the greatest match of all time. Everyone wanted a game of those standards. But everyone in their mind thought that probably it was too much to ask. They both had a combined age of 70. But they didn't disappoint. We were treated with the best three hours of tennis this season.
The match started on a strange note. Both players were comfortably holding their serves. It felt like an Isner-Anderson match more. The tiebreak was the only way to decide the first set. They both were neck to neck till Federer reeled off five straight points to win the breaker 7-3. Almost every tennis pundit said that it was crucial for him to win the first set. Federer had ticked that box. There are very few players who can play with a lead as he can. However, on the other side, it was Nadal. Anyone who follows tennis will tell you, that a hurt Nadal is dangerous. He completely decimated Federer in the second set, breaking him twice and winning 6-1. Many people at this point started worrying for Federer. He had mental scars from previous battles, and they might be opening.
What transpired was the opposite. The racquet of Federer again swung like a magic wand and won the third set 6-3. He was gliding over the grass, returning deep to Nadal's backhand, and was hitting over the ball on his backhand rather than slicing. It seemed like he realised that it was his court, his garden. Nadal may be the king of clay, but the grass is where Roger reigns. So when he broke Rafa's serve in the 4th set, the game was done. But Rafa did what he always does. He saved match points and earned the breakpoint. He also got a short slice in the rally, but his famous backhand found the net. From there, despite all of his trying, he couldn't come back. The Swiss maestro won the match and reached his 12th Wimbledon final.
The match was a semifinal. But there was nothing to suggest it. The intensity of both the players was right up there. The spectators were entirely into it as were the millions of fans watching worldwide. This might be the last time they were playing on the centre court. But Fedal XL was everything one can dream off.