Rafael Nadal beats Roger Federer for the 22nd time to reach the final of the ATP World Tour Finals at London’s O2 Arena. The Spaniard’s domination of their rivalry has become almost absolute, and his first indoor win in five attempts against Federer means he has now beaten the 32-year-old on every surface.
Nadal stepped up his intensity at the end of the first set and Federer could find no answer, going down 7-5 6-3. World number one Nadal, who will meet either Novak Djokovic or Stanislas Wawrinka in the final, is one victory away from collecting the only major trophy in the sport he has not won.
They had met four times before at this tournament, twice when it was held in Singapore and twice in London, and Nadal had managed just one set. Indeed, the last time they played here in 2011 Federer won 6-3 6-0, but it was one of only four wins in their last 17 meetings for the Swiss.
Given their respective seasons – Federer’s his worst for more than a decade while Nadal has won 10 tournaments and returned to world number one - there was no doubt who was the favourite.
Federer’s forehand had been shaky early on against Juan Martin del Potro on Saturday but he looked sharp from the start and forced three break points against the Nadal serve in the sixth game.
He could not take any of them, though, and Nadal capitalised on his first chance three games later, a series of brutal forehands leaving him serving for the set.
The large and ever-present contingent of Swiss in the crowd were given plenty to cheer when Federer somewhat unexpectedly broke back.
Nadal was dominating the long rallies but Federer won the point of the match with a forehand winner down the line and then the Spaniard missed a forehand. However, Federer then dropped his serve for the second game in succession and this time there was no reprieve.
The extra conviction in the Nadal game was clear to see, and when he put pressure on Federer again in the fifth game of the second set the 32-year-old wilted once more.
The six-time World Tour Finals champion has taken confidence from his results this week, particularly the win over Del Potro, where he dug himself out of several holes. But his record against Nadal now reads played 32, won 10, with his last victory coming more than a year and a half ago.