Rafael Nadal has emulated Roger Federer by winning a third successive round-robin match at the ATP World Tour Finals on Friday, edging fellow Spaniard David Ferrer at the O2 Arena.
With Nadal already in the semi-finals from the Ilie Nastase Group and Ferrer going home after two defeats, it could have been a non-event but the packed arena was treated to the longest match of the group stage with Nadal winning 6-7(7-2) 6-3 6-4 after two hours 37 minutes.
“This was a great match, with many intensive rallies,” Nadal said.
Nadal, twice a runner-up at the Tour Finals, will face Serbia’s world No.1 Novak Djokovic in Saturday’s last four.
“He’s achieved almost everything a player can win and done it all in the same year. I have to play my best if I want to have any chance, that’s what I’m gonna try. It’s been a bit of a tough year for me, but I’ve worked hard to play matches like this.”
It looked as though the Spaniard might be in for an easy ride when he won 10 of the first 11 points, breaking Ferrer twice, but his 33-year-old opponent is renowned as one of the sport’s best battlers and he hit back to win a tiebreak.
World No.5 Nadal, who had already beaten fourth-ranked Stanislas Wawrinka and number two Andy Murray, buckled down though and levelled the match before breaking the Ferrer serve in the final game of the contest.
Later on Friday home favourite Murray and Swiss Wawrinka play off for the runners-up spot which would set up a semi-final against Swiss world No.3 Federer, the other player with a 100 per cent record.