SHANGHAI • Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will meet in tonight's Shanghai Masters final, just the latest chapter in their storied rivalry.
The celebrated duo have faced one another 37 times, with world No. 1 Nadal winning 23 of their contests.
And the 31-year-old Nadal, who has never won the Shanghai event, will be slight favourite this time because he goes into the showdown on a terrific run of form, and his opponent faces a quicker turn around.
Nadal, a 16-time Grand Slam champion, triumphed at the US Open and then last week at the China Open for his sixth title of another remarkable campaign.
But he was forced to survive a rollercoaster with fourth seed Marin Cilic in their semi-final, saving three set points in the opener before pulling through 7-5, 7-6 (7-3).
Nadal said: "The way doesn't matter. We are at the highest level of our sport so nobody wins easy. If you want to compete in the most important events of the year and try to go for the victories, for sure you're going to have tough matches, and today was one of them."
Second-ranked Federer, who won this event in 2014, rolled back the years to fight back from a set down and defeat Argentine Juan Martin del Potro 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
After a sloppy opening set, the 36-year-old Federer, going after a 94th singles title, roared back and broke early in the deciding set to tee up another Nadal meeting.
This will be the third Nadal-Federer final this year with the Swiss maestro prevailing twice at the Australian Open and Miami Masters.
Off the court, Nadal is seeking €100,000 (S$160,000 ) in damages from former French sports minister Roselyne Bachelot after she accused the Spaniard of a dope test cover-up.
Nadal is suing Bachelot, who served as sports minister between 2007 and 2010, over remarks in March last year on French television. She alleged that Nadal faked an injury in 2012, when he missed the final six months of the season due to knee problems, in order to hide a positive drug test.
Neither Nadal nor Bachelot were at the court hearing in Paris on Friday. The player's lawyer, Patrick Maisonneuve, told the court that the doping accusation could have had "major consequences" for Nadal concerning his "existing or future sponsors".
ATP SHANGHAI MASTERS
Final: StarHub Ch201, 4.30pm