It will be the the 34th meeting between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal when two friendly rivals battle for the Basel title on Sunday. They have not faced each other at a tournament this small since Dubai in 2006.
On the day after Halloween, fans at the Swiss Indoors Basel will be getting an extra-special treat. After all, it is not every day that the tennis world witnesses Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal square off at a 500-point event.
In fact, the last time Federer and Nadal faced each other at a tournament of this level was way back in 2006 in the Dubai title match. That remains their only previous encounter to date outside of a Grand Slam, Masters 1000, or year-end championship.
Heading into Sunday’s showdown, the overall head-to-head series stands at 23-10 in favor of Nadal. The Spaniard has won five in a row dating back to the start of the 2013 season. Federer’s last victory over his nemesis came in 2012 Indian Wells semifinals via a 6-3, 6-4 decision. Even on hard courts, Nadal is 9-6 lifetime against the Swiss and he has won their last four such meetings. Federer does, however, have one edge in their past history: he is 4-1 at Nadal’s expense on indoor hard courts.
The 34-year-old not only has the benefit of playing indoors for this one, but also at home in the friendly confines of Switzerland. Federer is an awesome 60-9 lifetime at this tournament, has won it six times, and has now reached the title match in 10 consecutive appearances. The 17-time major champion has advanced so far this week by taking out Mikhail Kukushkin, Philipp Kohlschreiber, David Goffin, and Jack Sock–surrendering sets to Kohlschreiber and Goffin along the way.
Nadal has gone the distance three times already and came close to doing the same–if not losing altogether–in his semifinal versus Richard Gasquet. The third seed, who had previously outlasted Lukas Rosol, Grigor Dimitrov, and Marin Cilic, recovered from a break down in the first set and survived an extremely close second to beat Gasquet 6-4, 7-6(7).
“It’s been a very special week for me,” said Nadal, who added that he felt good after a brief knee-injury scare at 3-1 in the opening set on Saturday.
Nearing the end of what has been a disappointing year by his standards, Nadal is suddenly picking up the pace during what is traditionally by far his worst stretch of any season. The former world No. 1 reached the Beijing final and the Shanghai semis prior to this impressive Basel performance. Since blowing a two-set lead against Fabio Fognini at the U.S. Open, Nadal boasts a 12-2 record.
“It’s definitely a bit of a dream final,” Federer assured. “It’s never quite happened (in Basel). That it’s me against Rafa towards the back end of our careers is nice for the tournament, great for the Swiss fans–who’ve never seen this matchup on Swiss grounds.”
“I have played against Roger hundreds of times around the world,” Nadal commented. “I never played at his home (Switzerland), and tomorrow is a chance.”
It’s also a great opportunity for Federer, but at this point it his hard to like his chances in this particular matchup under any circumstances. This summer, of course, is when an on-fire Federer would have been a heavy favorite over Nadal. Fast forward a few months and Federer’s form–and perhaps motivation–has dipped considerably. He is no longer playing the kind of tennis that can blow his opponent of the court in two quick sets. Nadal, who would have an obvious mental edge in any long three-setter, should be able to capitalize.
Pick: Nadal in 3