The most celebrated match ever played at Wimbledon finished at dusk with Rafael Nadal flat on his back and Roger Federer’s long run as the undisputed best tennis player in the world suddenly over.
It was 11 years ago.
At that moment of Nadal’s first Wimbledon title, ending Federer’s streak of five straight, it would have been far too fanciful to imagine the possibility of their rivalry extending into 2019. Tennis players are supposed to get old in their 30s, and new generations are supposed to take their place. That’s the way it had always been. The thought of another Nadal-Federer match with such historic consequences taking place at Wimbledon more than a decade in the future had no precedent to think it could become a reality.
But Friday’s semifinal meeting, the first at Wimbledon since Nadal outlasted Federer after a 4-hour, 48-minute final in 2008, feels unusually significant in the ongoing debate over who will end their career as the greatest of all time.
Though there’s more to the…