Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have provided so many measures of their greatness and here is another one as Wimbledon starts: they can make time stand still.
It is simply astounding to think that they walk through the gates of the All England Club on Monday morning in much the same position that they were 12 years ago.
Just as in 2006, Federer is the top seed and defending champion, and Nadal is the second seed, fresh from winning the French Open. There was even a football World Cup going on at the time.
Roger Federer (left) congratulates Rafael Nadal on securing the Wimbledon title in 2008
Federer celebrates having beaten Nadal in the final of Wimbledon back in 2006
The two of them have written the history of men’s tennis ever since, and arrive here on this occasion with the Swiss holding 20 Grand Slam titles to the Spaniard’s 17.
This is the 10th anniversary of them playing one of the greatest tennis matches ever, when Nadal won a deciding set in the gloaming 9-7 before the Centre Court had a roof and lights.
All the commemorations of that extraordinary final should be accompanied by feelings of nostalgia, or of it being a museum piece. Yet then there is the realisation that they go back even further — and that there might even be a re-run a week on Sunday.
Both will be hoping there are no echoes of Saturday in Russia, from where football’s answer to them — Messi and Ronaldo — were sent packing early.
Federer, the current world No 2, will be aiming to win Wimbledon for the ninth time
Martina Hingis is the youngest Wimbledon champion in singles (16), doubles (15) and girls (13)
Seven different women have won the last seven Grand Slam titles (Kerber, S Williams, Ostapenko, Muguruza, Stephens, Wozniacki, Halep)
It is 15 years — and 58 Grand Slams — since a US man won a major. Andy Roddick was the last in 2003
Eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer has won £13.1m in prize money at SW19
Rafa Nadal is the Big Four’s Twitter king with 15.7m followers. Roger Federer has 12.4m, Novak Djokovic 8.6m and Andy Murray 3.7m
Only five players other than the Williams sisters have won Wimbledon since 2000 – Maria Sharapova (2004); Amelie Mauresmo (2006); Petra Kvitova (2011 and 14); Marion Bartoli (2013) and Garbine Muguruza (2017)
‘They’re very different to one another and I guess there’s some similarities there as well,’ acknowledged Federer on Sunday. ‘As similar as we are, Rafa and myself, we’re still very different on many levels. I think it’s pretty much the same for them.
‘Obviously in football, it’s different because you’re only as good as your team. The pitch is huge, with 11 of them running around. With us, we’re a little more in control, let’s be honest.
‘I hope I can control it a bit better than they could.’
The great Swiss would be happy if this tournament was ultimately capped by the Champions’ Dinner celebrating two 36-year-olds — Serena Williams being the other — with the younger generation