On Friday, the Wimbledon men’s semifinals will be a mixture of familiar faces and surprises. If the bottom half match will feature an old rivalry, the one from the top half will be completely new, at least for one protagonist, whereas the other is probably the biggest surprise of all.

Nadal and Djokovic, the logical Wimbledon semi

The bottom half semifinal will be a duel many times seen, whose winner could not so often be predicted: the 52nd clash between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

The Spaniard is already assured of remaining on top of the ATP rankings for the next weeks, and seems in a good way to claim another Roland-Garros/Wimbledon double.

However, in front of him will be Novak Djokovic, a player who is finally back to his old self since he returned to physical form and was reunited with his former team. In the quarter-finals, the Serbian dropped a set for the second time of the tournament, en route towards a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Key Nishikori.

Rafael Nadal and Juan Martín del Potro
(© Getty Images)

Nothing is won yet for the second seed, who had a rather smooth run until Wednesday’s epic quarter-final with Juan Martín del Potro, which he won, in the rapidly fading light, 7-5, 6-7(7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in almost five hours of play.

As for the the semifinal, Nadal’s battles against his long-time foe have been as numerous as they have been memorable.

“There is no one other match in the history of tennis that played more than our match”, reflected the world number one. “That’s a big thing. We always played in important stages, important places. Friday is another important match against [an] opponent that is one of the most difficult ones that you can face. He’s playing well. Only way to try to win it is play very well.”

Djokovic leads the head-to-head 26-25 and has won their last Wimbledon meeting, a four-set victory in the 2011 final. However, Nadal has won their last two encounters, in the semifinals of both Madrid 2017 and Rome this year.

Anderson and Isner: the surprises

The other semifinal will be the one of the surprises, between Kevin Anderson and John Isner. For the latter, it will be a first Grand Slam final four appearance. The former has been runner up at the last U.S. Open. However, the manner in which he reached the Wimbledon’s semis is the great surprise of the tournament.

Kevin Anderson and Roger Federer
(© Getty Images)

In the quarter-finals, the South African came back from a 0-2 deficit and saved a match point to stun defending champion Roger Federer 2-6, 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-4, 13-11. A massive surprise if there was one! Anderson kept his calm and closed his game well, not offering the Swiss any chance, but taking the ones that were offered to him for this big victory.

Friday’s match will be the 12th meeting between Anderson and Isner and the big serving American leads the head-to-head 8-3. However, the two haven’t faced off since Indian Wells 2015, an eternity in tennis terms.