Tennis legends Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer set up their 38th face-to-face ATP World Tour clash on Saturday, defeating Marin Cilic and Juan Martin Del Potro respectively to advance into the Shanghai Rolex Masters final.
Current world no.1 Nadal win 23 of the pair's 37 previous matches, but Swiss superstar Federer took the most recent four, including a thrilling five-set victory in the Australian Open final in January.
The second-seeded Federer faced big challenges in Saturday's semifinals against Argentine 16th-seeded Del Potro, who showed no signs of problems playing after injuring his left wrist in the quarterfinals.
After losing the first set 6-3, the 36-year-old Federer raised his level in the second. He broke Del Potro's serve on a fifth break point in a back-and-forth sixth game of the second set, which turned out to be a turning point of the match. From that point, the 19-time Grand Slam winner regained his momentum during the week and sealed the victory with double 6-3.
"Getting that break and then holding is always key in tennis, especially with all the twists and turns in tennis," Federer said, " You know, blink at the wrong time, he might hold the game and then you don't know what's going to happen next."
Early at the central court, Nadal overcame dogged fourth-seeded Cilic of Croatia to advance into his second final in Shanghai. The previous was in 2009 as the Spaniard finished runner-up, losing to Nikolay Davydenko 7-6(3), 6-3 in straight sets.
"I played a very high level of tennis. It was a great match again," Nadal said after the match. "In my opinion, he played well, too. I am very satisfied with everything. It's true that I had mistakes with my serve in the second. That's the only thing. For the rest, I am happy."
The two players exchanged breaks in the 9th and 10th games of the second set, but it was Nadal who dominated in the tiebreak, taking a 6-3 lead to held a trio of match points and eventually seal the victory at the first one to finish the 132-minute battle.
The 31-year-old Nadal came back strong this season after two tough years. He had already lifted six trophies, including the successes at the French Open and the US Open, before arriving in Shanghai.
"I just playing well and winning a lot of matches during the whole year. So that means I have been playing very solid and at very good level during almost every tournament that I have been competing. So I enjoy that situation," the 16-time Grand Slam winner said.
In the doubles action, the top two seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers and second seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo will battle for the crown of the season's penultimate ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament.