Today, Nadal, now aged 32 and a 17-times grand-slam champion, can move to within one win of reducing the deficit to two again, which adds to the stakes of his Wimbledon semi-final against Novak Djokovic today.
"You feel like this is a draw for the two of us, but somebody has to win."
Kevin Anderson becomes the first South African man to reach the Wimbledon final since Brian Norton in 1921, overcoming American John Isner 7-6 (6) 6-7 (5) 6-7 (9) 6-4 26-24 in six hours and 36 minutes in the second-longest match ever at the All England Club.
But the enormity of his achievement eventually started to sink in, as he emulated his feat at last year's US Open, where he made it to the championship match - only to lose to Nadal.
The 6-foot-10 Isner and the 6-foot-8 Anderson had played 11 times before on tour, but they also faced each other in college, including in the 2007 NCAA finals, which Isner won.
The Majorcan, who is the world number one but seeded second at Wimbledon, looked refreshed as he breezed through his opening four matches without dropping a set.
The ridiculous length of the Anderson-Isner clash left Nadal and Djokovic waiting until 8pm local time before stepping on court for their box office semi-final.
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Anderson won the first set 7-6 (8/6) before Isner claimed the next two, 6-7 (5/7), 6-7 (9/11) with the South African claiming the fourth 6-4 to level the semi-final.
It wasn't so much the shot that the fans particularly loved though, it was Isner's actions following the victor.
Carried by this momentum, John grabbed the tie break 11-9 after saving two break points, clinching another marathon set to move closer to his first Grand Slam final.
It was one of three successful drop shots from the Spaniard in the tiebreaker alone, but Djokovic answered with one of his own to save the second set point at 7-6.
The momentum was with Nadal but Djokovic's serve kept him just about out of danger.
"I don't really know what to say right now".
"I'm very, very happy to be in this position right now", said the ninth seed, who has never played on Centre Court at Wimbledon.