World number three Roger Federer has not won a grand slam crown for more than two years but he proved on Saturday he is still a major force to be reckoned with at the elite level.
The Swiss maestro delivered a delicious smorgasbord of crunching forehands, sizzling backhands, delicate drop shots and pinpoint volleys as he outplayed second seed Rafa Nadal 6-3 6-4 in the last four of the Indian Wells ATP tournament.
Federer advanced regally to his third successive final with a performance that impressed even himself, and on Sunday, he will take on big-serving American John Isner in a bid to win a third consecutive ATP World Tour title.
“I know how well I played tonight, so I’m just really pleased with my performance,” the 30-year-old Swiss told reporters after coping superbly with rain, gusting winds and his long-time Spanish rival at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
“It’s been a great week so far, and it’s another opportunity tomorrow to make it even more special. Obviously conditions were tough today and against one of my greatest rivals, it’s always nice if you come out on top, so I’m very, very happy.”
Federer, a three-times champion at this imposing California desert venue, has won 38 of his 40 matches since his 7-6 6-4 3-6 2-6 5-7 semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic at last year’s U.S. Open.
“It’s nice that I’m putting together a lot of wins in a row at the moment and that I have shown also great reaction after the tough loss I had against Djokovic, because that obviously hurt,” the 16-times grand slam champion said.
“I’m very happy with my game and happy that my body is holding up and mentally I’m still fresh, which is very surprising.”
Federer, whose most recent grand slam crown came at the 2010 Australian Open, had arrived at Indian Wells battling a flu bug and a temperature but his 24-carat display against Nadal on Saturday confirmed he is back to his very best.
“I’ve not felt great this week and I didn’t expect myself to play so well tonight,” he said. “This is sometimes when you can pull off the biggest wins of your career.”
Nadal applauded Federer’s performance, after losing to the Swiss for only the second time in their last six meetings.
“He played fantastic, and I just congratulate him,” the Spanish left-hander said. “He started the match playing more than unbelievable.
“His serve was with high percentage, and I wasn’t able to play my usual tactic against him with those conditions. He hit the balls, every one, inside the court and the weather conditions made it more difficult for the topspin for me.”
Federer and 10-times grand slam champion Nadal have now met 28 times with the Spaniard holding an 18-10 career advantage, though the Swiss edges their hardcourt encounters 6-5.
“We haven’t been playing maybe as often in the past, but when we do play each other we both usually play pretty well,” Federer said of their fierce rivalry. “Tonight I think that was the case again.”