How Federer solved the Nadal puzzle

Legends. Image Getty

"We didn't think maybe we were going to have the year we did, I definitely didn't", Federer said on court, reflecting on their continued success even at this late stage of their careers.

I could have done some things better, but that's it. Very pleased the way I played the whole Asian tour for me, whole China tour.

Federer's recent wins over Nadal have all come on relatively quick hard courts, and the Spaniard will argue that the tables will be turned on his beloved clay.

It was the first time in the duo's storied rivalry that Federer has beaten Nadal five times in a row and the comprehensive manner in which he dispatched the current world No 1 suggested he has finally solved the puzzle against a player he's struggled against so often in the past. The 19-time Grand Slam champion broke in the opening game, played attacking points with objective and never permitted the 10-time Roland Garros to get comfortable or extend rallies.

Federer is serving as "big" and precise as ever, but improvement in one shot in particular has proved vital in his match-up against Nadal. "Of course this was not the best match of the week for me - but when someone plays better than you in most of the things that really matter in this sport, then it's tough". It's been a great two weeks and I feel very happy after a long year to be able to have the results here.

The 36-year-old Swiss, who has lost only four times in 2017, was again in imperious form as he won in 72 minutes.

Federer overcame old rival Rafael Nadal to win the Shanghai Masters yesterday to close the gap at the top of the ATP rankings. It was an excellent tournament for both superstars, who are closing out 2017 and looking to carry momentum into 2018. The Australian Open's decision to speed up the surface played to Federer's attacking instincts.

Meanwhile, Federer could be handed an early advantage in his potential clash with Nadal in the finals, with Del Porto a doubt for his semi-final clash with the Swiss after he injured his wrist during his win over Viktor Troicki.

Federer said that "we don't have enough years left on the tour" for him to overhaul his great rival in their head-to-head count, but he insisted he's not concerned by the disparity.

Skipping the dirt season, Federer also maintained his high level of confidence throughout the season instead of having to rebuild after potential clay-court setbacks.

Nadal still leads the ATP rankings by almost 2,000 points.

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