Another installment of a blockbuster tennis rivalry will take place on Sunday in London. Rafael Nadal is going up against Roger Federer for a place in the title match of the year’s final tournament.
It has been an unusual season for two of the all-time greats, but it will near its end with a familiar sight: Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer.
Nadal missed the entire first month of 2013 but returned with a bang and mostly dominated the tour. His ascension to the No. 1 ranking already includes 10 titles, among them the French Open and U.S. Open. Nadal is 74-6 for the year following round-robin victories in London over David Ferrer, Stanislas Wawrinka, and Tomas Berdych.
Federer has plummeted to No. 7 in the world after starting the season in the second spot behind Novak Djokovic. The 32-year-old Swiss is 45-16 with a lone title coming at a 250-point event on the grass courts of Halle. Demons from shocking Grand Slam losses to Sergiy Stakhovsky (Wimbledon) and Tommy Robredo (U.S. Open) are being erased with a much-improved fall. Federer finished runner-up to Juan Martin Del Potro in Basel, reached the Paris semifinals, and beat Del Potro and Richard Gasquet this week after losing his opener to Djokovic.
Nadal and Federer will be facing each other for the 32nd time in their careers and for the fourth time this season on Sunday. The Spaniard upped his head-to-head series lead to 21-10 with wins in Indian Wells (6-4, 6-2) Rome (6-1, 6-3) and Cincinnati (5-7, 6-4, 6-3). Seven of their 13 hard-court encounters have gone Nadal’s way. Federer last beat his rival at the 2012 Indian Wells tournament.
All four indoor meetings have gone to Federer (all four at the year-end championships; two in Shanghai and two in London). At the same time, though, Nadal had advanced out of YEC group play with an undefeated record only once before (2010). While he may not be as dominant as he was this summer, Nadal’s late-season form is arguably the best it has ever been.
On this relatively slow-playing indoor surface, Nadal should be able to contest long points and finish them with heavy topspin high to the Federer backhand, thus opening the court for inside-out forehands.
Pick: Nadal in 2