While the year-end Chase for No. 1 and the Race for London both turned out to be duds, we do get a very nice late season treat (hopefully not trick) tomorrow in the Basel final as Roger Federer clashes with Rafael Nadal in the resumption of one of the great rivalries in all of sport.
Both guys aren’t what they used to be – no Roger isn’t what he once was nor is Rafa – but since they haven’t played in almost two years, we’ll take it and we’ll enjoy it.
Nadal leads 23-10 winning the last five most recently at the Australian Open semifinals last year. Federer hasn’t beaten Rafa since the 2012 Indian Wells semifinals.
In their 34th meeting – they first meet all the way back over 11 years ago in 2004 Miami when Nadal stunned the Swiss, and this is their first showdown in Switzerland – a lot has changed since their last meeting.
Nadal is no longer the dominant force that he once was. While he seems to be about as healthy as ever, his forehand isn’t as lethal, his serve has lost some pop and his court positioning remains an issue.
Federer has since added another pair of twins, gone to a bigger racquet and developed a new SABR shot which he used today.
So if it looks like Federer has grown and Nadal regressed, it’s true. The match, though, still boils down to Nadal’s forehand to the Federer backhand, and the Swiss’s aggressiveness.
Looking at this week, obviously Federer’s the pick here. He’s playing on his best surface, in his hometown where he’s now made 10 straight finals and he has to be the fresher, more confident of the two. And the indoor court should really help Roger especially with that troublesome Nadal forehand to the backhand routine.
Roger was pushed by David Goffin and Phil Kohlschreiber, but he blew out Jack Sock (a player with a similar game to Rafa) so he should be fit and ready.
“This is the first time we play each other in Switzerland,” said Federer. “It will be an amazing atmosphere tomorrow. This is a dream final for the fans and the tournament director.
“I’m very delighted. It’s a great feeling. You always hope at the beginning of the week that you will be part of the last two players there and have a chance to win the trophy again in your hometown. It’s nice to re-live that dream again this week.”
Nadal was pushed to three by Lukas Rosol, Grigor Dimitrov, Marin Cilic and today in his win over Gasquet should have gone three again but the Frenchman was unable to serve out the second when he had the chance. Therefore, I do wonder if Rafa might be feeling a little weary in the legs. He has played a lot of tennis – and some of it good tennis – this fall.
(Interesting that today Rafa played Baby Fed and Federer faced Baby Rafa Sock!)
“We’ve played a lot in important matches. This will be another special match against an amazing player,” Nadal said of Federer.
That said, this would be a huge confidence win for Nadal who lost to Novak Djokovic in Beijing and JW Tsonga in Shanghai. It’s something he really needs as he restores his place at the top – a big four win!
But Roger’s the choice here. Dimitrov should have beaten Nadal, Federer will now finish him off. It’s good to see Rafa playing decent again, but even at his best it would have been a big ask for Rafa to beat Roger indoors in Basel in Federer’s backyard.
The only question I have is will we see Federer do the SABR against Rafa?
The pick: Federer in two
Tennis Channel will have live coverage of the final at 8:30am ET.
SUNDAY BASEL SCHEDULE
CENTRE COURT start 12:00 noon
 J. Murray (GBR) / J. Peers (AUS) vs A. Peya (AUT) / B. Soares (BRA)
Not Before 2:30 pm
 R. Federer (SUI) vs  R. Nadal (ESP)
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