Roger Federer beats Rafael Nadal to set up Wimbledon final with Novak Djokovic

Roger Federer beat Rafael Nadal to reach his 12th Wimbledon final.

(CNN)Roger Federer remains on course for a ninth Wimbledon title after beating Rafael Nadal in an enthralling encounter to reach his 12th final at the All England Club.

It took more than three tense, nerve-shredding hours of the highest quality tennis for the Swiss to wrap up a 7-6 1-6 6-3 6-4 victory.
Federer will now face Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final after the Serb beat Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2 4-6 6-3 6-2 earlier Friday.
There was so much anticipation ahead of the showdown as two of the greatest to ever play the sport were meeting for the first time at Wimbledon since their epic 2008 final -- considered by many to be the greatest tennis match of all time.
    That Nadal and Federer -- aged 33 and 37, respectively -- are not only still at the top of their own games, but also at the top of the sport more than a decade later is a testament to both their skill and dedication.
    "I'm exhausted," Federer told the BBC after the match. "It was tough at the end. Rafa played some unbelievable shots to stay in the match. The match was played at a very high level.
    "The biggest points in the match went my way. There were tight ones and long rallies. That first set was huge to get the lead and try to protect it. He came back very strongly in the second set. It was a joy to play today."

    Turning back the clock

    Both players began the match by rattling off service games with very little trouble and it took until the eighth game, with Nadal serving at 3-4, before either player conjured up a break point.
    It came and went in the blink of an eye as Nadal bludgeoned a forehand that Federer had no hope of returning.
    With no breaks of serve the set went to a tiebreak and the first point immediately drew the mind back to that final 11 years ago.
    Rafael Nadal was at times unable to match Roger Federer's quality.
    The pair exchanged stunning groundstrokes, before Nadal improbably tracked down Federer's exquisite drop volley and prodded the ball past him down the line.
    But, just as he did twice back in 2008, Federer came from behind to take the tiebreak, playing four points of unanswerable quality to take the first set.
    While the first set was a tight, tense affair, the second was anything but. Both men were made to save break points in their opening service games and while Nadal held his concentration, Federer lost his.
    The Swiss' shots became wild and loose, unable to withstand Nadal's relentless power. Two breaks of serve followed and the set quickly ran away from Federer, with Nadal wrapping it up with a straightforward hold to love.
    With both players in the twilight of their illustrious careers, neither know how many more opportunities like these they will have to get into grand slam finals.
    At the start of the third set, Federer and Nadal began to play the tennis their great rivalry has become known for over the years and both players would have been proud of in their prime.
    Nadal's shots seemed to have more bite to them and Federer all of a sudden had an extra spring in his step.
    It was Federer who elevated his game to another level, breaking Nadal's serve and then going on to save two break points on his own the following game.
    Roger Federer was at times at his magical best against Rafael Nadal.
    It was to be the turning point in the set and Federer knew it. Usually so calm and collected on court, he let out a loud "come on" and pumped his fist in the direction of his box.
    He held serve on two more occasions to edge ahead in what was quickly becoming another special evening on Wimbledon's Center Court.