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 6-4 in another classic on Friday to set up a blockbuster final with world No.1 Novak Djokovic.
Twitter was overawed by the level of play both the veterans produced on Friday and could not stop gushing over Federer's ability to push the limits at the All England Club.
"I don't think there's much I need to do in terms of practice". He's the defending champion, and he's showed why this week. When Bautista Agut's shot hit the net tape, popped in the air and slid over for a victor that tied their semifinal at a set apiece, Djokovic motioned to the roaring fans, sarcastically encouraging folks to get louder.
Nadal's four-set defeat was somewhat unexpected since he had been an unstoppable force in his last three matches.
Djokovic went on to win in four sets, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Titles in 2011, 2014, 2015 and last year have helped the 32-year-old reach a haul of 15 grand slams, with more surely to come. Nadal, the man who sported slick long hair back in 2008 is now balding, while Federer has the wrinkles of a man that has been chased by everyone in the sport for the best part of two decades. The most recent of his eight trophies was won in 2017.
But still, Federer says that in any Wimbledon final you don't have as much time to study your opponent, comparing it to a school exam.
"Yeah, it's definitely a bit unusual, a bit odd", said Federer who will be the third oldest man to play in a Slam final tomorrow.
Federer leads Rafael Nadal 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-3 in the semifinals on Centre Court. It, and probably the match, hinged on the seventh game as Djokovic, a break to the good, served at 30-40.
"There's no point to start partying tonight or get too emotional, too happy about it, even though I am extremely happy", he said.
"I'm exhausted. It was tough at the end", Federer said.
"I think straight sets was a bit brutal for Novak, to be honest", Federer said. He double-faulted on his first set point but converted the second with a volley victor that clipped the net cord.
The Centre Court crowd realised they had a real match on their hands and they were treated to a superb third set.
This was the second major in a row where they've faced off: Nadal won their windy French Open semifinal last month en route to his 12th championship on the red clay and 18th Slam overall.
Soon enough, the defending champion was bellowing and shaking his fist after putting away an overhead to go up a break in the third set.
The champion then took command in the fourth set, cutting out the loose groundstrokes and picking up points with adventurous serve-and-volley attacks and after breaking for a 2-1 lead he never looked back. His forehand also became problematic, while Bautista Agut, who had already beaten Djokovic twice this season, couldn't seem to miss a shot.
With Djokovic awaiting in the final it would have still been a tall order for Nadal to claim his third Wimbledon crown and move to 19 Grand Slams in total - one behind Federer.
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