Nadal tops Federer, will face Djokovic in season-ending final
LONDON -- Defending champion Novak Djokovic set up an enticing final against Rafael Nadal with a clinical 6-3, 6-3 win over Stanislas Wawrinka at the ATP World Tour Finals on Sunday.
Unbeaten in his round robin matches this week, the second-seeded Djokovic extended his winning streak to 21 matches since losing in the U.S. Open to Nadal, who he will meet in Monday's final.
Nadal ended Roger Federer's hopes of finishing a disappointing season on a high note in the other semifinal, defeating the six-time champion 7-5, 6-3.
Nadal leads Djokovic 22-16 in their head-to-head record, but the Serbian won their latest encounter last month in Beijing after losing his top ranking to the Spaniard.
Nadal claimed his first win over Federer on an indoor hard court. Nadal, who extended his winning record over Federer to 22-10, has now beaten the Swiss great on every surface. Federer had won their four previous matches at the ATP Finals, dropping only one set.
"The most important thing for me is (that indoor) is the toughest surface for me to play," Nadal said. "The most difficult for me was to be able to win four matches against top-eight players. It's a very good way to finish the year."
Nadal, who is bidding to win the elite event for the first time, played down the importance of his victory over his greatest rival. In London, he won his three round robin matches to reach the last four.
"It is probably one of my best seasons," said Nadal, who reclaimed the No. 1 spot this year after coming back from a knee injury in February. "The most satisfying thing is always (to win) the tournament more than the personal victories. So for me it is more important to be in the final in the last tournament of the year than to have the chance to win against Roger."
Since he returned from his seven-month injury layoff, Nadal has produced one of the most impressive comebacks in tennis history. He has won 75 matches -- losing only six -- to win 10 titles including the French Open, U.S. Open and five Masters 1000 events.
Federer's season was very different. Hampered by a back injury, he won only one title in 2013 and was hoping to secure a big trophy before the year-end break.
He played aggressively early on but faded after losing the first set, making too many mistakes to threaten the Spaniard.
"In the beginning, his serve worked very well," Nadal said. "My feeling is that in the first set, he played very well. He was closer than me to have the break. So in my opinion until 4-all, he was playing better than me."
Nadal and Federer treated the O2 Arena fans to some superb exchanges early on, reminiscent of the classic matches that have punctuated their nine-year rivalry. But Nadal was much sharper at the important moments, converting all four of his break points, while Federer sometimes looked like a shadow of his old self, making 32 unforced errors and hitting some poor volleys.
"I struggled to stay consistent enough throughout the match, and that's why he deserved to win," Federer said. "This game is a game of making or missing your opportunities. Today was a little bit more of that, again."
The 32-year-old Federer, who beat Juan Martin del Potro on Saturday to qualify for the semis while Nadal had a rest day, also looked tired toward the end.
Federer missed an early chance when he failed to convert three break points in the sixth game. Nadal took advantage of his first opportunity to break for 5-4 with a superb forehand winner.
Federer sent the crowd into rapturous cheers as he broke back immediately after winning a long rally with a forehand down the line.
But Federer failed to build on the momentum, dropping his serve in the very next game before going on to concede the set. He then struggled with his rhythm and was broken twice in the second set, with Nadal sealing victory when Federer sent a volley long.
Three-time champions Bob and Mike Bryan advanced to the doubles final after defeating No. 2 Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares 4-6, 6-4, 10-8.
The American twins will take on David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco on Monday after the Spanish duo beat Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo 7-6 (10), 7-5.
The Bryans have already clinched the year-end No. 1 spot for a fifth straight year and a record ninth time.
They have won 11 titles this season, including the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon.