Today, Roger Federer claimed his fifth year-end ATP finals title with a superlative performance over a defiant, but defeated world number one, Rafael Nadal, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.
In the 22nd meeting of an illustrious rivalry that will leave a great legacy for the game for years to come, Nadal and Federer captivated audiences world-wide with a final that sparkled with explosive shot making, drama and as many twists and turns as a Shakespeare play.
The world number one and two are polar opposites with one thing in common; an extraordinary will to win. While many began to question Federer’s mental strength following his failure to capitalize on two match points against an often mentally fragile Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the US Open earlier in the year, Federer seemed to have shrugged off any niggling doubts of his own authority in matches in the run up to the final.
Questions have also been raised about Nadal’s physical problems. A shoulder injury in his serving arm caused Nadal to take a five week break before the ATP Finals and his recurring knee problems are always a concern. Many wondered how Nadal’s body would cope after a grueling three set match against Britain’s Andy Murray in the semi-finals. The tennis world waited with baited breath to see how the latest act in tennis’ greatest rivalry since Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras would play out.
In the opening set, Nadal described Federer as “unplayable” and it was evident from the outset that the Swiss Maestro was back to his absolute best. The players went tactically toe to toe until the seventh game when Nadal’s continued tactic of playing to Federer’s backhand backfired spectacularly. With a superb cross court winner from that wing, Federer gained the break of serve. Then, the former world number one closed out the first set 6-3 with a forehand winner in just 32 minutes.
But, with a dramatic swing of momentum, like an incensed lion released from its cage, Nadal characteristically pounced on Federer’s drop in form in the second set. By switching tactics, Nadal secured a break of serve in the fourth game through working the Federer forehand with spectacular success. Federer took a tumble in the fifth game following an unkind net cord for Nadal and so did his form, allowing the Spaniard to pull ahead with a comfortable 4-1 lead.
The remainder of the second set went with serve. Nadal held his nerve after losing the first point when serving out the set at 5-3 by finishing Federer off with a wonderfully executed backhand slice right at the master’s feet. Game on.