Every tennis player will be glued to their TV when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal meet again at Wimbledon, according to three-time champion Boris Becker.
The pair will play each other for the 40th time in the semi-finals on Friday but the first at the All England Club since Nadal’s famous final victory over five sets in 2008.
Speaking on BBC Two, Becker said: “I think it’s the one match where every tennis player alive is going to tune in. Two ultimate warriors. One with 20 majors, the other 18.
“Everybody remembers the final of 2008. Yes of course the other semi-final is as important but just the numbers, the history in the making is something we want to see.”
Federer was looking for a sixth consecutive title and a third final victory in a row against Nadal when they took to Centre Court in 2008.
The Spaniard claimed a two-set lead but, with rain disrupting the match, Federer fought back to level, saving two match points in a gripping fourth-set tie-break.
With the threat of darkness forcing a postponement overnight – the roof was not installed on Centre Court until the following year – Nadal claimed the crucial break to win 9-7 in the decider after four hours and 48 minutes.
John McEnroe said: “It was the best match I’ve ever seen in my life. I was lucky enough that people used to talk about the match I had with Bjorn (Borg) in 80 but this one, everything surrounding it, the way it ended, the quality of tennis, to see Rafa finally get his first Wimbledon, was amazing.”
Nadal leads the head-to-head 24-15 but has not beaten Federer on any surface other than clay since 2014, losing five matches in a row on hard courts before stopping the rot in the semi-finals of the French Open last month.
That took Nadal to 18 slam titles overall, only two behind Federer’s all-time record, and McEnroe believes it is too close to call.
“Roger, it’s his court, like Paris is Rafa’s,” said the three-time Wimbledon singles champion.
“But Rafa has come in here, he’s playing unbelievable. You can over hype a match but I don’t think we can over hype this one.
“If he (Nadal) wins this and wins the tournament, he’s only one away. The last time it’s been this close was when it was 2-0. So this has got so much importance historically as well as just a classic match-up between a lefty and a righty, their styles, everything about it is amazing.”
There is common consensus that the grass at Wimbledon has never played slower than this year, which would appear to favour Nadal, but 1996 champion Richard Krajicek is confident Federer will still come through.
“It’s still grass, even if it’s slow grass,” said the Dutchman.
“But it can be also too slow. I think the ball doesn’t do as much as on the clay so when Rafa hits a big spin to the backhand of Roger, Roger is here and I think now it’s going to be shoulder height and maybe a little bit lower even.
“And Roger just feels good here on the Centre Court. And even though he lost now to Rafa, the last two years Rafa has had a problem, he didn’t beat Roger. He’s a step slower and on the grass it’s more difficult for him to move than on the clay.
“He has to fight for it, it’s not going to be as easy as I thought before the tournament, but he’ll still win against Rafa.”
Former British number one Greg Rusedski disagrees, saying: “He (Nadal) has been phenomenal. It’s the best I’ve ever seen him play on a grass court. I had Federer originally to start the tournament but now the grass is slower so now I pick Rafa.”