Federer has won eight titles at SW19 and ranks his win over Nadal as one of the best experiences he has had in the tournament. But the second set was perhaps a nightmare for the Swiss, as the Spaniard thrashed him 6-1.
It will be Federer who bids for a ninth Wimbledon title against the four-time champion Novak Djokoic, the third member of the great triumvirate that still dominate the sport.
Once his volley victor found the net tape and trickled over to cap the third set - turnabout was fair play, in this instance, after the way the previous set ended - the outcome seemed inevitable.
"But I think the biggest points in the match went my way".
Friday's match turned on an awesome 45-shot rally in the seventh game of the third set, which Djokovic won to hold serve and stay a break up.
Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates defeating Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut during a men's singles semifinal match at Wimbledon.
"[It] is great to be part of this rivalry, be in the middle of these three players [including Djokovic] that achieved that much in this sport in the same era", Nadal said.
Roger Federer has won the first set 7-6 (3) in his Wimbledon semifinal against Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic went on to win in four sets, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.More news: New 'Mortal Kombat' becomes R-rated
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"I had to dig deep, Roberto was playing his first semi-final at a Grand Slam and he was not really overwhelmed".
Federer would kick up chalk with an ace to a corner, and Nadal would do the same in the next game.
From then on he took total control as the Spaniard, who had looked calm and confident in his first grand slam semi-final, was eventually brushed aside.
Federer won his first Wimbledon duel against Djokovic in the 2012 semi-finals but the Serb triumphed in the 2014 and 2015 championship matches. Djokovic, the top-ranked tennis player in the world, has won 25 of those times.
"Then the climax at the end with the insane last game, some tough rallies there - it had everything at the end, which was great, I guess". His opponent Novak Djokovic meanwhile has already started visualizing victory.
Though an eight-time Wimbledon victor, Djokovic heads into the tie the favourite having won all of their last three meetings and three of the last four available Slams.
"It will be hard to see it again but we are not done".
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.
After watching Bautista Agut's shot hit the net tape, pop in the air and slide over for a victor that tied things at a set apiece, Centre Court spectators stood and cheered.
Federer will not mind with his win coming just a month after Nadal handed him his worst loss at a Slam in 11 years in the Roland Garros semi-finals. When Djokovic ended that 45-stroke point - the longest on record at Wimbledon, where such stats date to 2005 - with a backhand victor, he cupped his ear while glaring into the stands.