It is 2008 all over again at Wimbledon. As Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer march on to the quarter-finals, unfazed, unflustered, apparently unencumbered by sweat, a collision between the two titans in the last four looks ever more likely. In SW19, the clocks are about to be put back.

It is 11 years since the pair met in an extraordinary final that went on into the gloaming, the only source of light to illuminate their shots that reflected off Nadal's toothy smile. Everything has changed since, not least that the All England Club's two principal courts are now equipped with a roof, ensuring there will always be light on future epics.

What was remarkable watching the pair eviscerate their opponents on Centre Court yesterday was how kind the passage of time has been. Unencumbered by receding hairlines and crow's feet, neither looks slower, less mobile; Federer still looks as enraptured by one of his own glorious winners as he was back then. More to the point, their appetite for victory remains as ravenous as ever.

As, with a speed that was almost contemptuous, the glorious twosome put away a pair of players with a combined 17 years' youthful advantage, it was hard not to reach the conclusion that part of their longevity is down to the lack of proper competition they have faced latterly.


Nothing makes an ageing sportsman face up to their depredations of chronology quite like being bettered by a younger man. And there was nothing like that here.

Though Nadal was insistent, as he strove to make his first appearance in the Wimbledon final since 2011, that he is not concerned with the performance of others.

"Personally, I am not thinking about sending a message to the next generation. I know they are good. I know there is going to be a day they are in front of us. Because we are not kids any more."

Mind, out on Centre Court, they looked anything but the senior citizens. There were times when Matteo Berrettini and Joao Sousa were simply dumbfounded, so outplayed all they could do was applaud.

They were not the only ones enraptured. Watching from the Royal Box, Francesco Molinari and Sergio Garcia were wishing they could be as precise with their putting; Sir Steven Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent alongside them wishing they'd had as much power in their strokes.

It was Sousa who was the first victim of the old boys club. As processions go, this was speedy. What Sousa faced was a Nadal for whom every aspect of his game appeared to be in tip-top working order. The way he is able to read three or four shots ahead, working his opponent into a position where he can unleash a winner into the space he has just vacated, is close to perfection.

Then came poor Berrettini. His time in the Centre Court went by even quicker than one of his 225km/h serves. Federer, working through every aspect of his stupendous play book, had the Italian back in the changing room in just 74 minutes.

Incredibly, given their dominance over their sport, were the two of them to fulfil all expectation and arrive together in the semifinal it would mark the first time since that glorious apogee of 2008 that they had met at Wimbledon.


But a Federer-Nadal summit is drawing ever closer. Which is just as well. It is about time the two of them faced a proper challenge.