March 9, 2014
Nadal fights back to beat Federer, Djokovic next
Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer served up another treat in the 24th chapter of their great rivalry when Nadal battled back from a set down to win 5-7 6-1 6-3 and secure a place in the Madrid Masters final.
The Spanish world number one, who replaced Federer at the top of the rankings, made the most of his opponent's lack of consistency to set up a meeting in Sunday's final against the seemingly unstoppable Novak Djokovic.
The Serbian second seed, who has not lost since Federer beat him at the World Tour Finals in November, also came from behind in a slugfest with Thomaz Bellucci later, eventually subduing the unseeded Brazilian 4-6 6-4 6-1.
Djokovic's run of 31 wins in 2011 equals the second-best season start on record set by Bjorn Borg in 1980 and his five titles this year include the Australian Open and the Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami.
While the Nadal-Federer showdown under the closed roof of a packed Magic Box arena lacked the spine-tingling drama of previous classics, some of the shot-making, incuding one incredible exchange in the final game, drew gasps of delight from the 12,500 spectators.
"We know each other very, very well and I think we are sometimes thinking more about what to do to bother the other player rather than playing our best," Nadal, who took his win-loss record against Federer to 16-8, told a news conference.
"Here I think Roger played great tennis for some moments but at others he made more mistakes than usual.
"But it's always a special match and it's a pleasure playing against him, it's always an honour."