Tennis icons Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will contest the final of the Mubadala world tennis championship exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi after both won their Friday semifinal contests.
Whereas Nadal scored a straight sets 6-4, 6-4 success over Czech Tomas Berdych, Federer needed three sets to get past Swede Robin Soderling.
World number two Federer conceded the opening set on the tiebreak but the 16-time grand slam winner then knuckled down and completed a 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-3 victory, sending down 16 aces - the final one winning him the encounter against last year's finalist here.
The Swiss star, who lost to Soderling at the event 12 months ago, will now meet Spanish world number one Nadal after he outlasted Berdych at the Zayed Sports City's International Tennis Complex.
Nadal had to fight to assert his authority in a tightly-contested opener but seemed to have the match in his pocket after a break to love for a 2-1 second set lead. A rebreak gave him a 4-1 advantage but the nine-times Grand Slam champion then conceded serve to love and Berdych promptly held to close the gap to a single game.
But Nadal promptly dug deep and served out for victory when his rival netted.
Speaking following his closely fought match, Federer said: “It looked like I was in danger of repeating last year’s loss, but I was not worried. I played aggressive and was finally able to turn it around. Today I was consistent and solid so it was a good match to start off the new season.
“This is also an opportunity for me to try out new things, go after my shots and see a clearer picture of what I am doing and this is why I enjoy this tournament. I was able to create some great stuff today that can help me in a big tournament and that is what I am building up for.”
Despite the semifinal defeat, Soderling who now faces Berdych in the third place play-off match ahead of the final, remained positive on his Abu Dhabi experience: “I played two good and long matches against great players and it has been really good. I could not ask for much more at the start of the season.”
Having secured his placed in the final against Federer, Nadal said: “This is a very good start for the season for me. I played very well today, especially after the first six games. The movement started to be better and better. He started playing great tennis in the beginning he had his chances but I had good serve. Then I finished the match in a solid fashion.”
Looking to the final, the third clash of the game’s greatest players in as many weeks, Nadal added: “Tomorrow’s match will be very difficult. Roger is one of the greatest in history if not the best, so it will be a very difficult one and I will try my best to play a really good one. It will be a good test and we will see what will happen. We played a lot of matches against each other so we know each other. I want to win tomorrow and I’m sure so does he.”
Similar to Soderling, Berdych also took the positives from his loss saying: “Nadal served perfectly he got incredible shots. That is why he deserves to be number 1. This is the best start that you can have to be part of this group with those guys and to play three matches against them. You can be practicing hard at home, but you cannot get these matches anywhere else. I am happy to be here, to play all those matches and I think this is going to help me for the rest of the season.”