Tennis

Rafael Nadal rues not playing against Roger Federer at US Open

Spanish great rues not playing against Swiss legend at US Open

Rafael Nadal looked ahead to the latest chapter in his "unique" rivalry with Roger Federer at Wimbledon, but regretted that the two heavyweights may never slug it out at the US Open.

Nadal and Federer will meet for the 40th time in the Wimbledon semi-finals today. It will be the pair's fourth meeting at the All England Club.

Federer won the 2006 and 2007 finals before Nadal claimed the 2008 title in a five-set epic.

At Roland Garros, the pair have clashed six times while they have met on four occasions at the Australian Open.

But, when it comes to the season's final Grand Slam in New York, the two have never managed to face off on the 24,000-capacity Arthur Ashe Stadium, the sport's largest arena.

That's despite Federer having five titles at the US Open while Nadal has three.

The 32-year-old Spaniard said that as much as he has enjoyed their rivalry at Wimbledon, the New York gap in their head-to-head record was a source of regret.

"We played a lot of good matches. Here in this tournament we played two great finals, 2007 and 2008. Have been two emotional matches," said Nadal, after a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 win over Sam Querrey on Wednesday.

"Personally, 2008 was a little bit more emotional for me. But I appreciate the fact that I was part of the 2007 (final), too.

"Then we played a lot of matches all around the world. Only in New York we didn't play. That's the only bad news."

Two-time Wimbledon champion Nadal was written off as a grass-court force when he failed to get beyond the fourth round at the tournament between 2012 and 2017.

However, he came agonisingly close to last year's final, when he lost to Novak Djokovic in a five-hour, 16-minute semi-final.

"To play against Roger always is a unique situation. Excited to be back on this court against him after 11 years," added Nadal.

"Always I say the same - the opportunities to play against each other every time are less, but we are still here. After tomorrow, we going to have another chance."

On meeting Nadal again, Federer said: "We have a lot of information on Rafa and so does he about us. I know people always hype it up in a big way.

"They did that again in Paris this year (when Nadal won their semi-final in straight sets)."

The Swiss great added that he had no idea he had become the first man to win 100 matches at Wimbledon, after defeating Japan's Kei Nishikori 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 to book his place in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the 45th time.

"A fan reminded me on court while I was signing autographs," said the 37-year-old, who is the oldest man to make the last four of a Major since Jimmy Connors at the 1991 US Open.

"It's special. It's been a lot of years I've been coming here. But I didn't think of it while I was playing today. Actually not at all, not once. Then as I'm signing, the guy says, 'Congratulations for your 100'. Oh, yeah, I didn't know. I forgot."

Nishikori, bidding to become the first Japanese man to reach the semi-finals since Jiro Satoh in 1933, broke Federer in the first game on Centre Court. It was enough for the 29-year-old to pocket the first set.

However, 20-time Grand Slam title winner Federer roared back, levelling the quarter-final with breaks in the second and sixth games of a 22-minute second set.

It was more of the same in the third as Federer found his range with a break for 4-3 before taking the set on a fourth set-point.

Nishikori visibly wilted, saving two break-points in the fifth game of the fourth set before fatally cracking in the ninth. - AFP

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