Two of the all-time greats of tennis, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, will play each other for the 34th time in the final of the Swiss Indoors in Basel. It's a rivalry that's often described as one of the most thrilling in all of tennis, dating back to 2004. Nadal leads the head-to-head 23-10, and has won all of their last six matches. Their last meeting came two and half years ago at the Australian Open in the semifinal, where Nadal dominated his rival in straight sets.
Nadal's Route To The Final
Rafael Nadal comes into the match, his 98th tour level final, having had tough wins all week. Firstly, he battled past Lukas Rosol in three sets, 1-6, 7-5, 7-6, coming back from a set and a break down, then a 0-3 deficit in the third set tiebreak. In the second round, the Spaniard was up against Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, who he defeated 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, also dropping a set. Believe it or not, Nadal came through another three set match, dropping the first set to Marin Cilic, but defeating him, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. His first three matches in Basel were very tough, but the good news for the Spaniard is that he responded brilliantly, adapting and fighting back to get into each match. It's something that he wouldn't have been able to do earlier in the year, which is a sign of just how much his mentality has improved.
In the semifinal, Nadal defeated Richard Gasquet, this time in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6. It was arguably his best performance of the week, but he still had to come back from a break down in both sets, and he had to save a match point in the second set tiebreak. The former world number one has had to work hard this week, and it's unlikely to get any easier against world number three Roger Federer.
Federer's Route To The Final
Federer's week in Basel has been a lot smoother than Nadal's, although the Swiss has arguably had weaker opposition. In the first round, Federer defeated Mikhail Kukushkin in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2, dropping just three games. Next, the Swiss had a tougher test against Phillipp Kohlschreiber, battling past in three sets, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Federer was up against a seeded opponent in the quarterfinal, David Goffin, who challenged him too, but the Swiss was ultimately too much for the young gun, as he came through, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. In the semifinal, Federer made quick work of Jack Sock, dominating him 6-3, 6-4.
Federer is looking for his seventh title in Basel, and there are many factors that favor the Swiss. Firstly, the 17 time Slam champion grew up in Basel, so he has the home crowd and will be considered favourite in tomorrow's final. Secondly, the match-up is at a tournament with indoor hard-court, typically Nadal's least favourite surface due to the low bounce. Federer is 4-1 over the Spaniard on indoor hard-court.
However, all hope is not lost for Nadal. The head-to-head swings massively in his favour, 23-10. Rafa knows how to beat Roger. He has his game-plan perfected, and ultimately, if he sticks to it and stays aggressive and at a very good level like he's been playing this week, he has every chance. Also, unlike the rest of the year, Nadal is going to be relaxed. It's a part of the season which is typically his worst, so he has little to no pressure, with nothing to lose and everything to gain. He's had a lot of tough opposition this week, and every time he's been threatened, he's come through with flying colours, preparing him well for the final. Nonetheless, the final is on the surface that has been the least successful for the Spaniard in his career. Out of his 67 career titles, only one of them has been won on indoor hard court.
Prediction: Nadal In Three Sets