Tennis: Five-star Federer lifts title as Nadal pays price for exertions
Roger Federer overcame Rafael Nadal 6-3 3-6 6-1 to equal Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras' record haul of five ATP World Tour Finals at London's O2 Arena yesterday.
The final the tournament had hoped for did not rival some of the classic encounters between the two best players of this, or arguably any, era, but it was absorbing nonetheless.
Federer was superior throughout but Nadal, who was looking to claim the one major title that has so far eluded him, put up a brave fight despite not being at his best physically.
Federer, who earned just over £1m and 1,500 ranking points, said: "I've really enjoyed playing here this week, it's been a wonderful atmosphere once again. Rafa's had an amazing year, one any player dreams of."
Nadal admitted he had lost to the better player, saying: "I want to congratulate Roger. He played unbelievable throughout the whole week. It was a fantastic year for me, probably the most emotional of my career."
The big question was how well the World No 1 would have recovered from Saturday's three-hour epic against Andy Murray. Federer, by contrast, had not lost a set in four previous matches and had demolished Novak Djokovic for the loss of only five games.
The early indications were that Nadal was feeling the effects of his exertions as Federer fired winners with the Spaniard left motionless.
The first break opportunity arrived with Nadal serving at 3-4 and Federer took it by casually whipping a backhand winner cross-court. Often the 29-year-old has looked a little inhibited against Nadal but not yesterday, and he closed out the set to love with a pinpoint forehand winner.
A Federer netted volley gave Nadal his first break points in the fourth game of the second set however. One went begging but on the second Federer drilled a forehand wide, setting the Spaniard up to close out the set 6-3.
A weary Nadal gave everything, but he found himself facing break point in the fourth game of the final set. A brilliant Federer return put his rival in trouble, and a follow-up forehand left Nadal with too much to do.
Having held serve, the World No 2 set about challenging for a double break, and he achieved it when Nadal, who now surely realised the game was up, netted a backhand.