New Delhi: In a replay of many a great tennis matches, Roger Federer defeated his greatest rival Rafael Nadal to claim his seventh Swiss Indoors and 88th career title in Basel on Sunday.
The 34-year-old Swiss survived a stern test from Nadal as the title match went all three sets, lasting little more than two hours inside the packed St. Jakobshalle. Federer won 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.
Nadal's superior head-to-head record (23–10) against Federer, however, did little to damage the 17-time Grand Slam winner's reputation in front of a raucous crowd; chanting his name, egging their meastro to play his finest game against a player, who have undermined his greatness too many times.
And specially considering how the Spaniard is making a herculean task to regain his lost touch, and also the ground, the crowd wanted a good fight, probably another chapter in the greatest tennis rivalry of all time. Because, the palpable sense of mortality have already been crept in, with a certain Noval Djokovic dominating this last one year or so.
Despite all the talks of retirement and end of their era, the three sets result showed this storied rivalry is still alive and kicking, and both the players are not yet ready to give up. If at all, that epic 2008 Wimbledon final was to stand the test of time as the greatest tennis match ever, then, the duo are ever more eager to play many more thrilling clashes.
In their 21st final, Federer broke the world number seven Spaniard in the fifth game. And it was enough for Federer to wrest the first set to the approval of home crowd. The first set lasted 40 minutes, with Federer converting two of his four break point chances, as against none of two for Nadal.
The confidence with which the Swiss started the match was evident from the fact that, he managed to hold his serve, in the second game despite playing nine points. He also produced three Aces, to Nadal's none. And rightyly, Federer was the favourite. Yes, there was a fleeting appearance of SABR, early in the set.
However, Nadal who has beaten his more celebrated rival 14 times in the previous 20 finals including six times in the big Grand Slam finals, will never give up without a fight.
Nadal broke Federer for the first time in the match in the 11th game of second set, and consolidated the break by serving out. He won the set, 7-5 in 48 minutes to level and force the decider.
At times, it looked like the old Nadal was back. Against all odds, he kept the fight alive with a veritable array of ground strokes, negating Federer's ever improving service game. In fact, Nadal somehow felt let down by his own service game, but he just about managed to hold on. And broke Federer in the first opportunity presented to him. That's how Rafa used to play.
Then, after two hours, world number three Federer captured his seventh Swiss Indoors title, winning the deciding set 6-3. he broke Nadal in the eight game, before serving out for the match and championship. But as expected, there was still a little fight from the Spaniard, forcing duece twice. Federer won in his second Match Point.
This is their first final in more than two years. They last played a final, at the the 2013 Rome Masters was the last event that featured a Nadal-Federer final, which the Spaniard won in two sets. The previous meeting was in January 2014, when Nadal won an Australian Open semifinal in three straight sets.