/ 17 November 2007

Federer annihilates Nadal in Masters semi

World number one Roger Federer scored his best-ever win over arch-rival Rafael Nadal to reach his fifth Masters Cup final on Saturday.

The defending champion edged a tight first set and destroyed the fading Spaniard in the second, winning 6-4, 6-1 in just 59 minutes.

It was Federer’s biggest margin of victory over Nadal in a rivalry stretching over 14 matches, of which he has won six.

The victory by the 2003, 2004 and 2006 champion set up a final with another Spaniard, David Ferrer, who routed Andy Roddick 6-1, 6-3 in the earlier match.

”Once I get on a roll it’s hard to stop me,” said Federer, who lost his opening match here before roaring back to form against Roddick on Friday.

”I’m exactly where I wanted to be and I’ve got a shot at winning the title, so it’s a great feeling.”

In a high-quality first set, Federer traded heavily on his big serve, pounding four aces to recover from 0-30 down in the fifth and saving his only break point with a forehand volley in the seventh.

He struck at the perfect moment, converting the first of three break points with a forehand down the line as Nadal served to stay in the set.

As the Swiss clicked into gear, Nadal was fumbling and Federer reeled off 14 points in a row to go two breaks up in the second. The Spaniard finally held for 5-1 but put a backhand into the net to hand over the match.

”It was tough at the beginning, Rafa had the upper hand,” Federer said.

”But after that I got in the zone and played incredible. I wish I could play like that every time against him, but it’s not easy.”

Earlier, the sixth-ranked Ferrer out-rallied, out-volleyed and out-ran Roddick, who needed medical treatment to his lower back, winning 6-1, 6-3 in one hour and 12 minutes.

It was another superb display by Ferrer, who had topped his group with wins over Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the world number two and three, and Richard Gasquet.

”I don’t know if I’ve seen someone move like that,” said Roddick.

”This week is above what I’ve seen from him before. The way he’s beating guys comfortably is impressive.”

Ferrer produced three winners from the baseline before Roddick blinked first in another rally for the opening break, prompting calls of ”Andy, wake up!” from the crowd.

The American was broken again before calling for the physio, but he was powerless against Ferrer’s accurate shot-making, including a stunning lob, finally giving up the set with a double fault.

Ferrer found an improbable running cross-court winner and planted a backhand past the advancing American to go 4-2 up in the second set, and then saved three break points, his first and last of the match, to consolidate.

Serving at 5-3, a mild attack of nerves delayed the inevitable before Ferrer converted his third match point when Roddick put a backhand into the net.

”It’s my first Masters Cup final — I want to enjoy this moment,” Ferrer said.

”I’m playing with great confidence and I’m playing very well but I don’t think I’m the favourite to win the tournament.”

The Spaniard boasted the tournament’s best record in the round-robin stage, beating Djokovic and Gasquet in straight sets, and handing a shock defeat to close friend Nadal.

Federer and Nadal have shared one of the sport’s greatest rivalries, splitting two Grand Slam finals this year at the French Open and Wimbledon.

Nadal is the only top-10 player with a positive head-to-head record over the Swiss, winning eight of their matches.

He was also beaten at last year’s Masters Cup by Federer, who is gunning for his fourth title in six appearances at the 4.45-million-dollar season finale.

”David’s been the best player of the tournament,” Federer said of Ferrer.

”He’s beaten unbelievable players to get this far. It’s going to be a great match tomorrow.” – AFP