Shanghai: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will meet in Sunday’s final of the Shanghai Masters, just the latest chapter in their storied rivalry.
The celebrated duo have faced one another 37 times, with the Spaniard and world No. 1 Nadal winning 23 of their contests.
And the 31-year-old Nadal, who has never won the Shanghai Masters, will be slight favourite this time because he goes into the showdown on a terrific run of form, and his opponent faces a quicker turn around.
Nadal, a 16-time Grand Slam champion, triumphed at the US Open and then last week at the China Open for his sixth title of another remarkable campaign.
But he was forced to survive a rollercoaster with fourth seed Marin Cilic in their semi-final, saving three set points in the opener before pulling through 7-5, 7-6 (7/3).
The Swiss Federer, the world No. 2 chasing a second Shanghai crown, rolled back the years to fight back from a set down and defeat Juan Martin del Potro 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
The 36-year-old Federer had said that he wanted revenge over the 16th-seeded Argentine for defeat in the quarter-finals at the US Open this summer.
And he got it.
Del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion whose career has been blighted by wrist injuries, quickly allayed fears that his latest problem would be a major handicap.
The 29-year-old fell and hurt his left wrist in winning his quarter-final on Friday and there were suggestions he may not even make Saturday’s match.
But he showed no ill effects in stunning the pro-Federer crowd to break for 4-2 in the first set.
And Del Potro grasped set point following a thrilling rally that had the spectators whooping, only for 19-time Grand Slam champion Federer to inexplicably shank his volley out of the court.
The second set went with serve until Federer, going after a 94th singles title, made the breakthrough on the Del Potro serve to inch ahead.
Del Potro began showing irritation, engaging in a series of discussions with the umpire, including demanding Federer be warned for triumphantly hitting the ball away after winning the game.
Federer sent the match into a deciding third set and he got the break early to tee up another Nadal meeting.
Federer, the older man, could be at a slight disadvantage because he has a shorter time to rest having played the second match of the day.
Nadal, meanwhile, is seeking 100,000 euros ($118,000) in damages from former French sports minister Roselyne Bachelot after she accused the Spanish tennis legend of a dope test cover-up.
Nadal is suing Bachelot, who served as sports minister between 2007 and 2010, over remarks in March 2016 on French television.
She alleged that Nadal faked an injury in 2012, when he missed the final six months of the season due to knee problems, in order to hide a positive drug test.
Neither Nadal nor Bachelot were at the court hearing in Paris on Friday. The player’s lawyer, Patrick Maisonneuve, told the court that the doping accusation could have had “major consequences” for Nadal concerning his “existing or future sponsors”.
Maisonneuve said his client had “asked me to put to bed once and for all what Mrs Bachelot said by passing on to you his medical file” which he said revealed a very serious left knee injury.