World Tour Finals SF preview and pick: Nadal vs. Federer

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


  1. Great win for Rafa! I am so proud of him…he composed himself, did not look puzzled when Fed broke back….that is what I would like to see against Nole… Rafa also was serving very well…Fed OTOH was terrible and did not put any resistance in…he made so many UEs…I agree with Rafa: Fed must have been tired…still big success for Maestro to reach this far…

    Nice and easy win for Rafa! Beautiful indeed! Now, let’s just enjoy the evening, Rafa and get ready for the big finale tmrw!

    Vamos Rafa!

  2. Atleast Roger looks into Rafas eye when shaking hands. He barely looked at Djoko both in Paris and London

  3. WHAT THE HELL :O did federer really said that? LOL.pity.

  4. And I just dont agree with Fed that Rafa was far behind baseline in the match. He stepped in beautifully to hit so many winners where required esp on big points and did he not make more or equal winners as Fed. What is Fed even talking? Rafa was changing defense into offense so well on big points

  5. This ones better

    Fed: Nadal ‘better’ today: ‘Margins more on his side, was more consistent, solid, he plays way he always plays. I couldn’t come up w/ shots’

  6. Fed could steal a set from Djoko indoors but not from Rafa..what do we infer from this?

  7. exactly, rafa has been sticking to the baseline so often this year on hard courts and he was stepping up often to punish Fed..

    so fed still thinks the only way he is losing to rafa/nole/murray and even others is due to slow conditions LOL…. cincinnati please? fed’s fav outdoor hard court…what happened there Fed?

    according to shanghai’s tournament director,the courts this year were prepared to be faster than ever at his event….the rating was ‘fast’ this year and ‘medium fast’ last year …a guy called monfils beat you there too right?

  8. the only reason**

  9. Federer: ‘Unbelievable [Nadal] gets away w/ playing so far back indoors these days but that’s conditions. Credit 2 him 4 making that work’

    You couldn’t make it up.

    • Ricky Dimon says:


      • I saw the interview where Roger said that and just cringed. It’s in stark contrast to Rafa, who in his on court interview offered that Roger was tired from the match with Delpo and therefore unlucky. It’s a pattern we see every single time Rafa beats Roger. Rafa is almost apologetic for the win and offers excuses for Roger. Regardless of whether or not Novak is sincere, Novak at least knows the script for offering gracious congratulations. Roger, apparently, does not.

    • I am fed up with Fed’s (and his worshippers’) eternal whining about the court conditions.

    • rafaisthebest says:

      Next he will complain that the O2 is not indoor enough and will demand that the tournament be played in an anti-nuke bunker!

  10. Nice comments
    Martina Navratilova ‏@Martina 9m Well done Rafa, Roger sure had his chances… Needs to mix it up more and most of all, knife that BH approach more.
    Matt Cronin ‏@TennisReporters 7m @Martina Fed doesnt think slice works well v Rafa Martina, which is why he hit over backhand more: “He does a good job picking up the slice” Martina Navratilova ‏@Martina 6m @TennisReporters but not when he is coming in- you have to keep the ball low and get in quick- not possible while coming over the ball

  11. Smug till the end :) Mr. Fed.. just face it, you’re just not the world’s best any more.
    Congrats to Nadal for reaching his 2nd final of this phoney trophy (IMHO).

    • monalysa13 says:

      Shireling………..happy that Rafa made the finals here, but I really think they make way too much of a big deal of this poxy WTF!!! Could it be bcos the Mighty Fed has won it 6 times?!!!

  12. rafaisthebest says:

    RT @linzsports: “Did I just read that Federer’s making it a *goal* to win 5 titles next year? WTH? Maybe he should start with 2.”

  13. Nadal looking to the final: “We’ll see what’s going on tomorrow. I was able to play better and better a little bit every day during …”the tournament. We’ll see if I have the chance to play better than what I did. If that’s happens, I hope to have my chance.”

    • rafaisthebest says:

      Unlike Fed, Rafa is not complaining about having to play on consecutive days…….

      Fed really is a spoilt brat…………..

  14. Rafa on skypad analysing the match

  15. Jpacnw@November 10, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    I add Rafa’s on-court interview :

  16. augusta08: Thanks for adding the interview. I watched the match on ESPN2 on television, but I also had it on my laptop on Skysports so that I could see all of the post match interviews, including the analysis by Rafa. It never ceases to amaze me that Rafa can just continue to be so deferential toward Roger, not just in speech but in mannerisms such as what we saw at the end of the match where Rafa barely celebrated, even though this was a huge win for him, putting him into the finals in a tournament where he traditionally has played less than his best tennis. It just makes me admire him all the more.

    • Thank you Augusta. They didn’t show the court-side interview on my tv channel.
      jpacnw, I think that Rafa has been brought up – and brought himself up as well – to consistently find the most gracious ways of behaving especially when it matters. So he would be this gracious esp when speaking about the most celebrated male athlete of their sport even if he had no personal admiration or respect for him. I am not saying he does not have admiration or respect for Roger, quite the opposite, he has lots of both. He is not naive about Fed’s psychological defenses that come out in those back-handed compliments etc, it doesn’t take much to see through it and through various people’s ways of trying to save face. But putting aside those aspects, it has been clear all these years that Rafa has tremendous respect and admiration for Roger. And regardless, he would have been courteous in such an interview even if privately he didn’t feel that way towards him. I don’t recall Rafa ever not being respectful and using his intelligence to find ways to be courteous no matter the circumstances. Even that time when Berdych’s behaviour was getting to him (in Madrid years ago), the way he handled it and spoke about it was in essence courteous.

      As the years go on I keep seeing how having grown up to have his feet firmly planted in realistic views of himself and all that surrounds him in the world of tennis has only helped him be a better player as he has worked at improving what he can partially thanks to that, and has been able to take in stride, no matter how painful, all the setbacks, defeats, injuries, scheduling challenges, you name it, without resorting to distorted views of things or inflated views of himself. This attitude alone, were it missing in his character, might have been sufficient for him not being able to navigate the months of recovery from the partially torn tendon last year, those months when his team and he kept trying different things most of which did not work and all the while it was uncertain what would work, whether anything would work sufficiently so he could practice well and then play again on the pro circuit.

      I hope that someone writes a short book around the time Rafa retires to examine all that he has done with his potential and his deep desire to succeed, from his childhood on, through all the struggles. There is well more than one or two or three deep lessons in those 20 years of dedication.

  17. Rafa wll end year with atleast 690 points more than Novak after todays win..Go Rafa make it 1690 by winning he final(+500 for your win and +500 for Novak not winning).

    That will be a good buffer to start next year as you can add to that total in AO

  18. natashao2013 says:

    Rafa is great human being who is brought up to respect his opponents and people in general…I admire Rafa for being what he is: deferential and honest…Rafa always says how his rivalry with Fed made him a better player…he was pushed to improve in order to challenge and beat mighty Federer at Wimby and USO…that can not be forgotten…Rafa admires Fed and you will never hear him badmouth him…and I truly believe that is the right way to be…arrogance and disrespect have never been on Rafa’s agenda…

    Vamos Rafa!

  19. nativenewyorker7 says:

    So if Rafa wins this “phony” tournament, are some here going to change their tune? Will it then become more important?

    For myself, I don’t care what Fed says about the match because he was clearly outplayed in the end and outsmarted once again by Rafa. He’s just going to look petty and foolish if he starts talking nonsense about Rafa winning by playing way behind the baseline. Anyone who saw the match will know that was simply not the case.

    I am just happy for Rafa and refuse to let anything Fed says spoil my party! :)

  20. I watched the entire match on mute. And rewound important points. Maybe it’s just me but I felt that while they showed replays when Roger did something good they failed to do so on a number of occasions when Rafa did something incredible. Like that return of serve Ricky called sick. That was just awesome, truly like a hole in one.

    I felt that Roger played with fewer nerves than I expected and did play well for most of the first set, and parts of the second. Rafa did outplay him in most games. I loved his placements just a tad to the left of Roger with serves and with some other strokes. They seemed to all end in an UE.

    So Ricky’s initial prediction re Rafa winning tomorrow seems not far-fetched. Let’s see how good is the best Novak can bring this particular week. (Or Wawa,)

    • rafaisthebest says:

      ^^Has Ricky said Rafa’s winning the tourny? Not good…..
      You know Ricky’s a closet Federista, maybe still upset Rafa wacked Fed…..

      • Ricky Dimon says:

        no (in more ways than one)

      • ritb, don’t you remember someone here at grand pointing to another site where ricky mentions his favs of several sports and the boy from the village who brings flowers is the one for him in tennis. That would be the boy from the village of the island, that is.

  21. ricky @8:37 pm NID break back
    since you posted this well after the match was over, and below my long-winded post, I am clueless as to what you are referring to with ‘break back’. Please tell.

    • Ricky Dimon says:

      was posted right when Djoker broke back in the first set

      • I thought as much. But this problem is new to me: that it got posted much later, and also apparently as a reply to my long post hours after the match. Glitch in the software?

  22. ok, the penny has dropped. I first thought you were writing about the break back in the fedal match…

  23. This is always a great match-up. The two are the best in the world and never cease to entertain.

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