Tennis

Nadal braced for 'complex' Djokovic

Rafael Nadal described long-time rival Novak Djokovic as "one of the more complex" players he's ever met as they prepare to clash for the 52nd time today with a Wimbledon final spot at stake.

World No. 1 Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 champion at the All England Club, trails Djokovic, the 2011, 2014 and 2015 winner, 26-25 in a rivalry which began at Roland Garros 12 years ago.

Along the way, they have fought out a series of classic battles including Djokovic's 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5 Australian Open final win in 2012.

At five hours and 53 minutes, it was the longest final ever at a Slam.

The following year, Nadal downed the Serb, who was world No. 1 at the time, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, 9-7 in the semi-finals in Paris, this time in four hours and 37 minutes.

"It's always a big challenge to face Novak," said 32-year-old Nadal, who is back in the semi-finals at Wimbledon for the first time since 2011, when he finished runner-up to Djokovic.

"He is one of the more complex players that I ever saw in our sport. You know that you can't win against him if you don't play very well."

Nadal is chasing an 18th Grand Slam title which would put him just two behind Roger Federer, who was sensationally knocked out in the quarter-finals by Kevin Anderson.

For his part, Djokovic is eyeing a 13th Major after making the semi-finals of a Slam for the first time since finishing runner-up at the 2016 US Open.

This time last year, few would have expected to see either man back in the last four at the All England Club.

Nadal was knocked out in the fourth round, losing 13-11 in the final set to Luxembourg journeyman Gilles Muller.

On four of his previous five visits to south-west London, he had been defeated by players outside the top 100.

Djokovic's 2017 Wimbledon campaign ended in a quarter-final retirement with an elbow injury, which led to surgery and precipitated a worrying dip in form and confidence.

But the 31-year-old has been rejuvenated at Wimbledon, sweeping into the semi-finals for the eighth time.

Today's other semi-final pitches Anderson, the eighth seed who lost to Nadal in last year's US Open final, against ninth-seeded American John Isner, who had defeated Milos Raonic .

Both Anderson and Isner are playing in their first Wimbledon semi-finals. - AFP

Tennis