The Swiss showed utter conviction against an opponent who he boasted a 3-0 head-to-head record in 2017, not offering up a single break point and blasting his way past the Spaniard.
Federer has now won the last five meetings between the pair stretching back to Basel in 2015 and he has not dropped a set against the 31-year-old in their last three encounters.
Nadal ambled onto the court – with the decision taken to close the roof – with bandaging around his knee. The Spaniard has historically battled knee problems in the past but it was unaware whether it was a result of his racket smash against Marin Cilic in the semifinals.
Nevertheless, it was a laborious start for the world number one, although credit undoubtedly must go the way of Federer. Returning with conviction, the Swiss fashioned two break point opportunities in the opening service game. Nadal rallied back to deuce but a third would arrive and Federer made no mistake
The 36-year-old crystallized his advantage with a comfortable hold and Nadal’s tactic of taking his backhand early – which had worked a treat over the previous two weeks – was being very swiftly countered with Federer’s flat-hitting off both wings.
His first serve percentage has been impressive all week and he held for a 4-2 lead with four consecutive aces. Nadal could be seen gesticulating with his coaching team that he was hapless to return his opponent’s deliveries on the lightning-quick Shanghai courts.
The Spaniard, though, persevered and he forced Federer to serve for the opening frame with a convincing love hold. The 2014 champion seized the offer and closed out the set with an ace down the T.
Only 35 minutes had elapsed and already the feeling was that Nadal was fighting an uphill battle. To the casual observer, it was Federer who was riding the 16-match winning run heading into Sunday’s final.
Stretching every sinew to get a piece of his racket on Federer’s serves Nadal began to deepen his return position but that only gifted his opponent the time to introduce his crafty serve and volley.
The crucial break of the second set arrived in the fifth game and the writing had been on the wall when the Swiss edged into a 30-15 advantage. He squandered the chance to fashion two break points with a tame approach off the forehand but he carved out another opportunity with a well-timed backhand volley. Trading blows on break point Federer sensed an opportunity and coaxed an errant backhand from Nadal.
Coasting towards success Federer’s unrelenting desire for victory saw him break Nadal when it mattered. Three championship points were rung up on the Spaniard’s serve after he dumped an overhead into the net and, just like their Miami and Indian Wells encounters before, it was Federer in the end who raised his racket in glory.