According to tennis legend John McEnroe, Rafael Nadal plays every point as if he ‘wants to eat you alive’. The American is of the opinion that Roger Federer needs to match the same intensity in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

The two former World number 1 players have been in stellar form at SW19. Arguably, Nadal has had the tougher draw on paper and he managed to battle past Sam Querrey in the quarterfinals. On the other side of the fence, Roger Federer survived a tough match against Kei Nishikori.

The two long-time rivals will square of on Centre Court, their first meeting on grass in 11 years. The last time Roger Federer faced Nadal at Wimbledon was during that famous 2008 final. McEnroe declared that to beat Nadal, his opponents must fight fire with fire.

Speaking to the BBC, the American admitted: ‘You play against a guy like Nadal, the guy wants to tear your heart out, he wants to eat you alive. I mean, he plays with such intensity. To me, the only chance you have when you play a guy like Nadal is you’ve got to try to match that.

‘I know when I played [Jimmy] Connors, who was our equivalent at the time, every point was like the last point you’re ever going to play. You try to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Am I doing as much as this guy?” and most of the time the answer is no. I get it’s so difficult to do, but you have to try.’

John McEnroe

He continued: ‘I gotta tell you, Nadal is playing unbelievably well. I mean, this guy has come into Wimbledon he had no tournaments, he had that little extra time that you get now, the level that he came from the beginning to this point has been astounding.’

If Nadal somehow manages to best Roger Federer on Friday, he would be one win away from a 19th Grand Slam title. This puts him one win behind Federer and practically breathing down his neck.

McEnroe revealed: ‘We talk Roger more often that he’s the greatest, and there’s arguments to be made for Novak and obviously Rafa as well. But if [Rafa] wins this, and wins the tournament, he’s only one away.

‘The last time that it’s been this close for starters was when it was 2-0. So this has got so much importance historically as well as just obviously a classic match-up between a lefty and righty, the emotions, their styles, everything about it is amazing.’

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Wimbledon 2008