Rafa Nadal's ultimate act of respect for Roger Federer

Insisting their epic rivalry is far from over, a vanquished Rafael Nadal could only salute Roger Federer after falling to the Swiss's grass court mastery in a Wimbledon semi-final for the ages.

Federer denied Nadal 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-3 6-4 in a showdown that lived up to all the hype in the legendary duo's first battle at the All England Club since their so-called greatest match of all time in 2008.

Amid incredible tension and pressure, Federer needed five match points to finally put Nadal away after a tick over three hours of breathtaking tennis but the Spaniard said, in truth, he always felt second best.

"I had my chances," Nadal said.

Rafa Nadal thanking the crowd along side Roger Federer at Wimbledon, (Getty Images)

"He played little bit better than me, I think. Probably I didn't play as good as I did in the previous rounds, and he played well. So he deserve it. Congrats to him."

Federer's serve was in particular was supreme, but that wasn't all.

"His return was better than my one this afternoon. I didn't receive well today," Nadal said.

"When that happens, he's in advantage, he's in the control of the match generally because you feel little bit more under pressure than him.

"Even like this, I had the early break in the third. I had a couple of mistakes in that moment. That have been a tough moment I needed to resist.

"The beginning of the third probably was one of the keys of the match.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 12: Roger Federer (R) of Switzerland shakes hands with Rafael Nadal of Spain after their Men's Singles semi-final match during Day eleven of The Championships - Wimbledon 2019 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 12, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Shi Tang/Getty Images)

"Then I think at the end of the match I started to play much better, but it was late.

"He played aggressive, he played a great match, and just well done for him."

The match was the 40th instalment of their career series, but Nadal is adamant world sport's most enduring individual rivalry will continue despite it already stretching more than 15 years and both players well into their 30s.

"Is great to be part of this rivalry, (to) be in the middle of these three players (including Novak Djokovic) that achieved that much in this sport in the same era," Nadal said.

"It's something that is going to be difficult to see it again (but) we are not done, so things continue.

"(It) just has been another episode this afternoon.

"Of course, as I said the other day, we know that every time is less chances to play against each other in this high quality, high important matches.

"Was another chance this afternoon. Sad for the loss because for me was another opportunity.

"But at the same time I created another opportunity to be in another final of a grand slam.

"Just accept that was not my day. I played a great event. I take this in a positive way."