Wimbledon 2019: Roger Federer overcomes Rafa Nadal, progresses to record 12th final

Roger Federer has exacted sweet revenge over Rafael Nadal to sweep into a record 12th Wimbledon final with an enthralling four-set triumph over the mighty Spaniard.

Echoes of 2008 reverberated around the All England Club, as Federer and Nadal 
wound back the clock in their much-anticipated first Wimbledon match-up in 11 years.

But unlike Nadal's five-set victory in that epic encounter more than a decade ago - a match dubbed the greatest of all time - Federer reigned 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-3 6-3 in another classic to set up a blockbuster final with world number one Novak Djokovic.

Less than a month shy of his 38th birthday, Federer is the second-oldest man to reach a Wimbledon final - after 39-year-old Ken Rosewall in 1974 - denying Nadal for the first time in five Grand Slam semi-finals between the two great rivals.

Federer and Djokovic, who beat Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2 4-6 6-3 6-2 in the first semi, will clash in the final for the third time on London's hallowed grass, after the Serb prevailed in two riveting title deciders in 2014 and 2015.

Looking to match Bjorn Borg's tally of five Wimbledon crowns, Djokovic leads Federer 3-1 in Grand Slam finales, having also conquered the champion Swiss in the 2015 US Open showpiece.

Federer hasn't beaten Djokovic in a major final since 2007 in New York, but will carry renewed confidence into the showdown, after upstaging Nadal for only the fourth time in 14 Grand Slam encounters.

Chasing a ninth title at the All England Club and a 21st career major overall, Federer pressed hard for the first service break against Nadal.

He upped his tennis to insane levels deep in the opening set, but so supreme was Nadal too that the eight-time champion had to pull out all the stops to twice fight back from mini break points down to steal the set in a tiebreaker.

Unable to sustain such extraordinary hitting, Federer had a mental dip in the second set, dropping serve to love in the fourth game with three sloppy unforced errors.
Down 3-1, Federer all-but surrendered the set with half-hearted returns, as Nadal levelled the semi up.

But he hit back swiftly in the third set, breaking Nadal for the first time, after winning the point of the match with a breathtaking backhand volley in the fourth game.

Continuing his relentless attacking onslaught, Federer forced Nadal into errors to break the Spaniard again in the fourth game of the fourth set and take a stranglehold on proceedings.

Federer ruefully blundered a chance to gain a match point on Nadal's serve at 5-3, when he unsuccessfully challenged a line-call, after hitting a clean winner.

But the second seed held his nerve - and serve - amid unbearable tension in the next game to complete a memorable victory with a forehand winner on his fifth match point after 3h 2m.

Federer will contest an unprecedented 31st men's Grand Slam singles final with top seed Djokovic his 25th.

AAP