WIMBLEDON, England - Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will meet in their third consecutive Wimbledon final after commanding semifinal victories Friday.
Federer outplayed Marat Safin 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-4 with a nearly flawless performance, leaving him one win from his sixth consecutive Wimbledon title and 13th Grand Slam championship. It was his 65th straight win on grass and 40th in a row at the All England Club.
“It’s great, a beautiful feeling, being able to get the opportunity to win the title again,” Federer said after the clinical 1-hour, 42-minute victory. “It means so much to me.”
Nadal followed with a 6-1, 7-6 (3) 6-4 win over Rainer Schuettler, setting up a sixth Grand Slam final against Federer as he pursues his bid of becoming the first man to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year since Bjorn Borg in 1980.
Federer, who hasn’t dropped a set all tournament, never lost serve against Safin and showed again why he is considered one of the greatest grass-court players. Federer, who beat Safin for the ninth time in 11 matches, advanced to his 16th Grand Slam final.
“It’s a huge thrill every time when I get to another Wimbledon final,” he said. “It’s a great occasion.”
Nadal, the four-time French Open champion, has lost to Federer in the last two Wimbledon finals but pushed him to five sets last year and looks more dangerous than ever on grass.
“Right now, I know have on the other side of the net the best player of the world — Roger Federer — but I will try my best and we will see,” said the Spaniard, who is on a 23-match winning streak. “I feel I have to play very well if I want to have chances to win. I know he’s playing well, but I’m playing well, too.”
Nadal wasted four break points in the fifth set of last year’s final, coming as close as anyone to beating Federer at Wimbledon since 2002.
“Last year I was very close,” he said. “I hope on Sunday, same performance, a little bit better. If I have the chance, I hope to win this time.”
If he does, it will give Nadal his fifth Grand Slam title and first outside the French Open.
“If I win here, probably one of the most important wins in my career,” he said. “If I win Sunday, my career is changing a little bit more.”
Federer said he was eager to get over the 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 loss to Nadal in last month’s French Open final — his worst defeat in a Grand Slam event.
“Paris was a disappointment,” he said. “It’s important to bounce back from that loss. I hardly remember anything of it. It went so quickly.”
Nadal said the French Open result would have no bearing on Sunday’s final.
“Different court, different surface,” he said. “Everything is different.”
With Nadal looking more and more comfortable on grass, Federer might not be a heavy favorite this year.
“I don’t think it matters really a lot if I’m the favorite or not,” Federer said. “I’m on an incredible winning streak on grass. First, somebody has to be able to break that before we start talking differently.”
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Nadal has a 11-6 career edge over Federer, but the Swiss star leads 5-2 on surfaces other than clay.
“I enjoy the challenge,” Federer said. “Rafa is a great competitor. He’s got a winning record over me. Every time I play him, I want to beat him. He’s now become so good on all the other surfaces that he’s a real threat on anything.”
Among the guests in the Royal Box on Friday was Swedish great Bjorn Borg, with whom Federer shares the modern era record of five consecutive Wimbledon titles. The only man to win six in a row was Willie Renshaw in the 1880s, and he had to win only one match to defend his titles.
“He was in the finals every time, so it was a little bit easier for him to win six in a row,” Federer said. “A little different for us.”
Watching Rafa Nadal churn his way through the claycourt season over the past few weeks, it seems nothing much has changed since his French Open triumph a year ago despite a lengthy injury layoff.
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