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TENNIS

Nadal beats Federer to reach World Tour Finals showpiece game

World number one seeking to fill only big space in trophy cabinet on Monday

Rafael Nadal returns to Switzerland's Roger Federer during their World Tour Finals semifinal match.
Rafael Nadal returns to Switzerland's Roger Federer during their World Tour Finals semifinal match. EFE

Rafa Nadal took his career record against Roger Federer to 22-10 in London on Sunday to reach the final at the World Tour Finals for only the second time in his career. In a high-quality first set, both players evoked memories of titanic struggles past with some blistering ground strokes, but as the Swiss began to tire toward the end of the second, Nadal stepped into the court with more frequency and bludgeoned his opponent into submission to triumph 7-5, 6-3.

But the Spanish world number one required all of his mental strength to deny Federer at 2-3 in the first set when the Swiss crafted three break points with some sumptuous shot-making. The denouement of the opening set saw serve broken on three consecutive occasions before Nadal served out to love.

Federer hit 15 winners in the first set and came out gunning in the second to take the score to 2-2 but after a vagary of scheduling the Swiss maestro began to tire noticeably as everything he threw over the net came back with the kitchen sink attached. Federer had played the day before and been pummeled by Juan Martín del Potro in a 4-6, 7-6, 7-5 win lasting almost two and half hours. Nadal, by contrast, had Saturday off to recover from his own bruising encounter with Tomas Berdych, who almost handed the Spaniard the rarest of bagels in the second set.

After Nadal had broken to 3-2, Federer’s shoulders sagged a little and it was a case of cruise control for the world number one, who reeled off three of the last four games to win in an hour and 20 minutes.

Nadal was yesterday awaiting the winner of the second semifinal between Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic as he closes in on the only major title to elude him. The Spaniard reached the final in 2010 but ran into a Federer in vintage form, the Swiss winning 6–3, 3–6, 6–1. Incredibly for a player of Nadal’s consistency at the big tournaments, his World Tour Finals win-loss record before this year stood at 9-10. “In a tournament where I have lost before and have not had the most luck in, it is great. Roger was a little bit unlucky having a match against Juan Martin del Potro yesterday. I will try my best in the final,” Nadal said after the match.