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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, November 1, 2015

 
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal

Roger Federer claimed his seventh Basel title with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 win over archrival Rafael Nadal in the final.

Photo credit: Swiss Indoors Basel

A ghost-walk tour through Basel is a popular trip for tourists. Former Basel ball boy Roger Federer was in no mood for post-Halloween haunting in his hometown today.

Attacking at crunch time, Federer defended his home turf and title defeating nemesis Rafael Nadal, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, to capture his record-extending seventh Swiss Indoors championship.

It is Federer's sixth title of 2015 and 88th career championship. He snapped a five-match losing streak to Nadal, who still leads the iconic rivalry, 23-11.

More: Federer-Nadal By the Numbers

"I think I can speak for all of us," Federer told Nadal afterward. "It's like you won the final. To have you in the finals and comeback to my home town, and everybody's hometown here, it's very special for us to have this match. Congratulations, I hope we play many more finals."

Completing his first Basel final, Nadal elicited some laughter thanking Federer's hometown fans afterward.

"It has been a very emotional week; all of the matches a lot of fight," said Nadal after dropping to 3-3 in 2015 finals. "I believe it has been a great important week for me this year but at the same time for the future...Every day it has been huge support. Today, a little bit less, but I understand."

Episode 34 of the Roger-Rafa rivalry did not disappoint.

The stylistic clash of the right-handed Federer's all-court acumen against the left-handed Nadal's topspin counter strikes, spikes of tension from both men, brilliant counter strikes and exuberance from all sides—including chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani, who barked "correction!" immediately and forcefully correctly over-ruling some missed calls—all contributed to the drama.

Nadal had unleashed his crunching topspin forehand to spook the Swiss winning five straight matches to take a 23-10 lead in their head-to-head series.

Contesting his Open Era-record 10th straight Basel final and 12th overall in his hometown event, Federer stared down the hard-charging Spaniard's comeback with a commitment to moving forward. He serve-and-volleyed at times, including when serving for the title, deployed the SABR return tactic three times (it worked once) and hit some timely backhand strikes to set up net rushes.

The contrasts were clear from the coin toss.

In his customary style, Nadal pivoted and sprinted back to the baseline, revving his competitive engine before striking a shot. A relaxed Federer turned and strolled back to the baseline like a suburban dad picking up the Sunday paper from the front lawn.

Initially, Nadal was quicker off the mark. A whipping forehand winner down the line followed by a diagonal forehand winner sealed a love hold as the third seed took a 2-1 lead.

Aggressive footwork from Federer helped him break in the fifth game.

Spinning an inside-out forehand that stretched the Spaniard, Federer stepped in and pasted the opposite sideline with a forehand drive down the line, scoring the first break for 3-2.

An assertive forehand earned Federer the break. A running forehand helped him keep it.

Facing break point in the sixth game, Roger gave Rafa a taste of his own whirling counter-strike brilliance, staying low to lasso a running forehand pass crosscourt, skidding to a stop not far from the court-side clock. That key strike helped Federer consolidate for 4-2.

Resuming their rivalry for the 12th straight year, the pair revisited familiar patterns. Nadal tried to jam Federer with the shoulder-high topspin to the Swiss' one-handed backhand. Federer answered dancing around his backhand to strike some aggressive forehand returns and jolting backhands.

A double fault and floated backhand put Nadal in a triple-set point bind. Federer swept a forehand winner reeling off six straight points to seal the 38-minute opening set with his second break. Federer fired 16 winners compared to six for Nadal in the first set.

Navigating out of a 15-30 hole, Federer stung successive aces holding for a 3-2 second-set lead.

Nadal's resilience and creativity on the run, and Federer's respect for his rival's court coverage combined to create the first break of the second set. At 30-all, Federer had control of the rally, but overplayed a crosscourt forehand wide for break point. When he ran around his backhand, Nadal pounced exploiting the open court to break for 6-5.

Streaking forward, Nadal pounded away a pair of smashes closing the second set playing his best tennis of the day and pumping a clenched fist toward his box. Backing up his serve with more vigor, Nadal elevated his level during the final games of the 47-minute second set to force the decider.

A recharged Rafa looked intent on imposing his crunching forehand to extend baseline exchanges and force Federer into lower-percantage drives.

Would the ghosts of Nadal's past impositions unsettle Federer on his home turf?

Nerves spiked when Nadal spun a double fault to face the first break point of the final set. Federer tried attacking behind a forehand. Nadal loves a target and made him pay pounding a backhand pass to deny the break point. He held on for 2-all.



The top-seeded Swiss escaped a 15-30 trap, firing a pair of forehand winners for 4-3. A crackling return down the middle earned Federer break point. He unleashed a flatter backhand down the line, a racing Nadal reached the ball, but sailed his backhand reply as Federer broke for 5-3.

Closure did not come cleanly.

On his first championship point, Federer tried the serve-and-volley, but Nadal nullified it with a return winner that scalded the sideline.


 

#rogerfederer #rafaelnadal

A photo posted by Tennisgram (@_tennisgram_) on


When his moment of truth arrived at deuce, Federer did not back off from the challenge. Attacking again, he jabbed a tricky half volley and was bouncing at net when Nadal lined up his pass. Correctly anticipating crosscourt, Federer danced to his left and blocked a backhand volley for a second championship point.

Sliding a wide serve, he ended the two hour, two-minute final thrusting his arms in the air. It was Federer's first win over his archrival since the 2012 Indian Wells semifinals. Roger beat Rafa for the fifth time in six indoor meetings in a match that left both the crowd and competitors eager for more of this rivalry.

 

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