Novak Djokovic needed five sets to overcome Rafael Nadal in the second semi-final of the 2018 Wimbledon to make it to the final. He won 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 3-6, 10-8 to seal his berth in the title-decider and will now take on Kevin Anderson for his fourth Wimbledon title.
Surprisingly, perhaps, neither of these players have been at this stage of the tournament for several years – Djokovic is in his first semi-final since 2015, whilst you have to go back to 2011 for the last time Nadal got this far in the event.
Having reached this stage though, both men will feel they have an excellent chance of lifting the cup itself on Sunday afternoon, given that, with all due respect to the players involved, they will regard either of the other semi-finalists, Kevin Anderson and John Isner, as eminently beatable.
For Djokovic, in particular, it is a welcome return to the limelight, after a nightmare two years, which has seen him plummet down the world rankings, after a troublesome elbow injury and some off-court personal issues. However, in defeating Kei Nishikori, he has reached his 32nd Grand Slam semi-final, a mark some doubted he would ever reach at the height of his problems.
Nadal, meanwhile, has the opportunity to close the gap further to Roger Federer when it comes to Grand Slam titles won, and he will be most people’s favourite to do so.
He was taken to the very limit by Juan Martin del Potro in their epic Quarter-Final battle which lasted almost five hours but, for a man so adept on clay, stamina will not be an issue, and he will be fully recovered by the time the match starts.
The head-to-head record of the two men is almost identical – 26 wins to Djokovic as opposed to 25 to Nadal, although their two meetings so far this year have both been won by the Spaniard, albeit on his favourite surface of clay.
Their last meeting on grass, however, was the 2011 Wimbledon Final, which the Serb won in 4 sets.
Much may depend on which Novak Djokovic turns up on Friday. If it is the player who has struggled for the past two years with on and off the court demons, then Nadal will win easily. If, however, it is the man with 12 Grand Slam titles to his name, then spectators could be in for a classic.