Federer, Nadal to play for ATP title
After relentlessly running each other all over the court for more than three hours in a match that flip-flopped throughout, Rafael Nadal got the breaks he needed Saturday to beat Andy Murray 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (6).
The top-ranked Spaniard, however, had to overcome a mid-match slump to reach his first final at the ATP World Tour Finals, where he will face 16-time major champion Roger Federer.
"(It) was (an) incredible tennis match," said Nadal, who won this year's U.S. Open to complete a career Grand Slam. "(This) was a really difficult match against one of the best players of the world."
The French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion has never before played in the final of the season-ending event for the top eight players. And to win his first title, he'll have to play four-time champion Federer in Sunday's match at the O2 Arena.
Federer beat Novak Djokovic 6-1, 6-4 in the other semifinal match.
"Obviously I'm really looking forward to playing against Rafa tomorrow," Federer said. "Who wouldn't?"
In the early match, both Nadal and Murray looked unbeatable throughout the first set, which the Spaniard won in a tiebreaker despite a late surge from Murray. But Nadal started to falter after holding serve to lead 3-2 in the second. Murray won 17 of the next 23 points - and four straight games - to take the set and even the score.
"I was a little bit tired in the second," Nadal said. "And when he break me, I said, 'Well, going to be very difficult to come back to this set."'
Nadal never looked as good after the mid-match slump, but he managed to break Murray to take a 2-1 lead in the third set. The Spaniard then had his first match point on Murray's serve while leading 5-3, but the fifth-ranked Briton managed to hold the game, break back to 5-5 and force the final tiebreaker.
"I probably played one bad game the whole match, or maybe just a couple of bad points," Murray said. "But, yeah, it was great tennis. I think both of us played well pretty much from the beginning of the match."
In the tiebreaker, Murray won the first three points - two of them on Nadal's serve - and looked like he was going to roll to victory. But Nadal clawed back to 4-4 before getting another match point at 6-5.
"Even when I was losing 4-1, 3-0 in the final tiebreak, I was happy," Nadal said. "I was saying, 'Just try to be there,' because always (there is) still a chance for me."
Murray again saved that one, but he couldn't do anything about the final match point, which Nadal won with an inside-out forehand.
Murray finished the match with 22 aces, but he also had 47 unforced errors to go along with his 53 winners. Overall, the Briton won 114 points in the match, five more than Nadal.
"It was one of those matches where you kind of knew - so many long rallies, so many good points - I kind of knew when I was out there that it was a great match," Murray said. "It's nice in some ways to be involved in matches like that. But it's not nice losing them."
In the first set, Nadal and Murray traded forehands and backhands but neither allowed the other even one break point.
The second set started much the same, although Nadal did waste the first two break points of the match in the second game. Murray then broke serve to lead 4-3, and then broke again to take the set.
"I played a great match today," Murray said. "Whether it's the best match I played and lost, I don't know. But it was a great match."
Federer looked as dominating as ever against Djokovic, stretching his career record against the Serb to 13-6.
"I was able to outplay him at times, play aggressive," Federer said. "I took it to him, exactly the way I was hoping to make it."
The second-ranked Swiss jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first set, and then broke Djokovic again to make a 5-1. But Djokovic responded early in the second set, breaking Federer to give himself a 3-0 lead.
That didn't last long, however, as Federer held serve, broke back and then held again to 3-3.
Federer's run lasted another three points, but he wasted all three break points he held in the seventh game, allowing Djokovic to take a 4-3 lead on serve.
After holding, Federer broke again and then served out the match.
"He was on top of his game," said Djokovic, who beat Federer in the U.S. Open semifinals. "He was playing unbelievable from the first moment. He deserved to win."
In doubles, Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia beat top-ranked Bob and Mike Bryan of the United States 6-3, 3-6, 12-10. They will face Mahesh Bhupathi of India and Max Mirnyi of Belarus in the final. Bhupathi and Mirnyi beat Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski of Poland 6-4, 6-4.