Rafael Nadal became world no. 2 behind Roger Federer in 2005, improving his game regularly and challenging a great rival. Between Miami 2004 and Roland Garros 2006, Rafa toppled Roger in six out of seven encounters. The Spaniard scored four notable wins over the Swiss in the first half of 2006 before Roger bounced back at Wimbledon and the ATP Finals.
The world’s leading players were the rivals in the semi-final in Shanghai at the season’s closing event, with Federer standing as the favorite on an indoor hard court. Rafa made the ATP Finals debut that year, missing the event in 2005 with a foot injury and reaching the semi-final following wins over Tommy Robredo and Nikolay Davydenko.
Federer struggled a bit in his group but scored all three wins in the round-robin stage, hoping for more of the same against the Spaniard. Meeting each other for the ninth time, Federer toppled Nadal 6-4, 7-5 in an hour and 53 minutes, becoming the first player since Ivan Lendl with four straight ATP Finals title matches!
Roger won ten points more than Rafa, dominating with his first serve and facing only two break chances. Nadal converted one, but that was not enough to keep him safe. The Spaniard dropped 40% of the initial shot points and suffered three breaks from 11 opportunities offered to the Swiss.
Roger had the advantage in the shortest and mid-range exchanges. He followed Rafa’s pace in the more advanced rallies to seal the deal in straight sets and advance into the title match against James Blake. Federer held at 15 in the encounter’s first game when Nadal netted a backhand and landed a forehand winner in game two for an early break.
The former champion forced a mistake from the youngster to secure the third game and forge a massive advantage after only ten minutes.
Roger Federer defeated Rafael Nadal in the 2006 ATP Finals semi-final.
The Spaniard fended off two break chances in game four to avoid a complete disaster, followed by Federer’s perfect volley winner from Roger in the next one for a 4-1 advantage.
Nadal held at love in game eight to prolong the set. He broke Federer without losing a point a few minutes later to get back on the positive side of the scoreboard pretty much out of nowhere. Recovering his strokes, Roger grabbed a break at 15 in game ten thanks to a sharp forehand, stealing the opener and earning a massive boost.
Rafa sprayed a forehand error in the second set’s fourth game to offer two break chances to Roger. He remained calm and took four points in a row to get out of jail and stay on the positive side. After wasting those opportunities, Federer played against a break point in the next game.
He saved it with a forehand down the line winner and brought the game home for a 3-2 lead. Facing the ultimate challenge at 4-5, Rafa erased two match points and held after four deuces to stay in contention. Serving to level the score at 6-6, Nadal landed a forehand beyond the baseline to squander a game point.
He wasted another before Roger converted his third match point with a forehand crosscourt winner, securing a place in the fourth consecutive ATP Finals title match.0
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