SHANGHAI • Roger Federer got one over his old rival Rafael Nadal to win the Shanghai Masters 6-4, 6-3 yesterday in a showdown between the two best players on the planet.
It was a 94th title for the Swiss legend, drawing him level with the great Ivan Lendl, and a fifth victory in a row over world No. 1 Nadal.
Nadal was ahead in their overall record going into the clash - 23-14. But this time, he was up against it almost right away, against the man fondly known as "Cow" in China for his laid-back personality.
World No. 2 Federer put his rival under the cosh by breaking him in the first game - to roars of approval from the crowd.
Another break to the 36-year-old Federer in the pivotal fifth game of the second set put him in reach of a second Shanghai Masters crown - and a sixth title this year.
"We didn't think we were going to have the year we did, I definitely didn't," he said on court afterwards, looking at Nadal, reflecting on their continued success even this late into their careers.
Winning streak Roger Federer has over Rafael Nadal.
"It's nice to share this court with you today and I hope there are more to come in the tournaments we've got left.
"It's been a pleasure playing against you here today."
Federer, a 19-time Grand Slam champion, was in full flow under the Qizhong Tennis Centre roof.
Nadal, fresh from his US Open and China Open wins, laboured through his service games and groaned while lashing many of his shots towards his opponent.
Somewhere in the stadium, somebody rattled a cow bell.
Federer made it 4-2 with two booming aces in a row, drawing huge cheers. There were suggestions he might not be quite as fresh as his old foe, having been pushed to three sets in the second semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro.
Instead, the timeless Swiss seared his way to a 5-3 lead. Nadal sent down his fourth ace for 5-4, only for Federer to seal the set with his seventh ace of the match.
There was little between the two in the early exchanges of the second set until the fifth game. Nadal saved the first break point, but could not survive the second to put Federer in reach of the title.
So Nadal, a 16-time Grand Slam winner, still has not won the Shanghai Masters. But he has nevertheless enjoyed a remarkable season of his own. His triumph in Beijing last weekend was also his sixth of "an emotional year" as he continues to defy doubts about his fitness following repeated injury problems.
"I could maybe have done some things better," said Nadal, 31. "Of course (it) 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."
He declined to say if he had been hampered by a problem with his right knee, which had a bandage on it during the match.
"I don't want to talk about that now, sorry," he said. "After losing a final, it's not the moment."