Old rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal posted straight-sets wins at the Swiss Indoors in Basel on Saturday to setup their first final against each other since Rome in 2013, and their first competitive encounter since the semi-finals of the Australian Open last year.
It will be a first-time title match appearance for Nadal in the hometown of his longtime rival, while Federer will be bidding for his seventh trophy from a tenth straight Basel final and 12th overall at his local venue.
The Swiss top seed crushed American outsider Jack Sock 6-3, 6-4 though the 17-time Grand Slam winner was broken while serving for victory leading a set and 5-1. Nadal shrugged off an opening set knee injury worry in a 6-4, 7-6 (7) win over France’s Richard Gasquet.
The Spanish third seed admitted he got a fright when he felt something in his right knee after a sudden movement in the seventh game. He immediately called for the trainer and got a strapping below his kneecap before carrying on.
Nadal then resumed business as usual with a break-back of Gasquet for 4-4 on his way to taking the set on a third winning opportunity with an inside-out forehand winner. “I was a little bit scared. I felt something in the knee,” he said. “It’s not the knee I usually have problems (with).”
Nadal’s head-to-head against Federer stands at 23-10 since the pair first met 11 years ago -- the Spaniard has won their last five meetings.
“It’s been job done for me this week,” said Federer. “But when you look at the draw at the start you wonder if this will be the year you don’t make it (to the final). I got through two tough matches this week and stayed focused today.
“I’m feeling good with my game and have a good shot in the final. I know how Nadal plays and he knows my game.
“I’m expecting him to play his best yet in the final. He’s been fighting back all week, I know he will stay in the match.”
Nadal said he was thrilled to be facing Federer again for a title. “We’ve played a lot in important matches. This will be another special match against an amazing player,” said Nadal, who will be appearing in his 98th career final on Sunday.
“I’m happy with how my knee responded, it feels fine. I hope I’m going be ready for a great match tomorrow.”
Federer improved to 12-1 in Basel semi-finals with his only loss coming in 2002 against David Nalbandian. He now stands 60-9 at the event.
Sock was the first American semi-finalist in Basel since Andy Roddick in 2010, who also lost to Federer.
Gasquet’s defeat also settled the field for the eight-man World Tour Finals in London beginning November 15, with Japan’s Kei Nishikori and David Ferrer of Spain taking the last two spots. Federer, Nadal, world number one Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych make up the eight-man showpiece.
“I am very excited to qualify for London for the second year in a row,” Nishikori wrote on Facebook. “It’s always a big goal at the beginning of the year to make it to London so I am proud of the year I am having so far.
“Last year there were was a lot of support and I am really looking forward to coming back to the O2 Arena.”