Arguably the biggest rivalry in tennis over the past decade will get another chapter Sunday afternoon as six-time World Tour Finals champion Roger Federer meets World No. 1 Rafael Nadal for a spot in the finals of this prestigious event. The stakes are high, as Nadal is looking to secure the biggest title missing from his cabinet of trophies, while Federer is looking for just his second title this season and an opportunity to salvage the remainder of his near-abysmal season on the tour. This marks the fourth time the two tennis greats will meet this year, with Nadal holding a perfect 3-0 against the Swiss No. 1 in 2013. Roger will need to play a near-perfect match against Nadal if he hopes to pick up his first victory this year against the Spaniard. The Federer vs Nadal H2H stands at 10-21.
Federer secured his 11th semi-final appearance at the Word Tour Finals with a thrilling yet nerve-racking three set contest against World No. 5 Juan Martin Del Potro. It was a roller-coaster ride for the fans at the O2 Arena, who witnessed momentum shift at least four different times during the match but in the end, to their delight, Federer was victorious. It was not a promising start though, as Roger was broken in the opening game and quickly dropped to 1-5 to the shock of the crowd in attendance. The Swiss No. 1 started to regain his footing and confidence and stormed back to 4-5 before dropping the opening set the following game.
The trend continued in the second set as the former World No. 1 was broken once again but the Argentine failed to carry forth the momentum and dropped his own serve with a double fault to level the set at 3-3. From that point on, Federer picked up the pace and began serving with more accuracy and took advantage of his superiority at the net, as he played some remarkable net points during the set, before securing it in a near-flawless tiebreaker. Federer once again trailed in the third set at 3-0 but his resiliency paid off as he was able to break back and level the match once again. 142 minutes into the match, Federer finally broke ahead for the first time in the match at 6-5 and closed out the match with his 10th ace.
Nadal also faced a three set yesterday in his final round robin match against Tomas Berdych. The Spaniard used a barrage of powerful forehands to secure an early break for a 2-0 lead in the first set, which was enough to secure the first set 6-4. In the second set, Berdych appeared to find some of his best tennis, as he dominated the rallies to storm back and tie up the match 6-1. He was unable to maintain that momentum in the third set, where he dropped serve after seven games to give Nadal the 5-3 lead. It was all the Spaniard needed to finish the match and end with a perfect 3-0 record in the group stage. Considering the indoor surface is perfect for the likes of Berdych, it is a wonder how Nadal manages to be so dominant on the surface he has admitted to be his least favourite.
It appears that the conditions in London have slowed down since previous years, which certainly helps Nadal and his style of play. He holds only one indoor title, which highlights his dislike for the court surface, but he has managed to secure a perfect 3-0 in the group stage here this year. Federer on the other hand, is a fan of the indoor surface and arguably has his best chance this year at defeating Nadal tomorrow afternoon because of the surface they will meet on. If there is anything that will negatively affect Federer, it is his lack of rest heading into the semi-final. The World No. 1 has had an entire day to rest before the match, which Federer will need to recover quickly from his three set marathon against Del Potro.
“I don’t get a day off, I’ve got to back it up and be ready to go again tomorrow,” Federer said. “I’ll try to make his (Nadal’s) life a bit difficult.”
Nadal holds a significant 21-10 lead in the head-to-head series against Federer, and is 4-1 against the Swiss dating back to the beginning of 2012. Federer’s last win was the 2012 Indian Wells Masters event and has since lost three consecutive matches, all in 2013. Roger has been playing his best tennis of the season over the past few weeks and now stands his best chance to topple the Spaniard. While this may be the case, Nadal is still the rightful favourite heading into the match and will likely edge out a close yet decisive three set win.
Prediction: Nadal in Three Sets