On November 22, 2011, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal met for the 26th time at the O2 Arena in London, with Roger scoring the 11th victory over his nemesis, toppling the Spaniard 6-3, 6-0 in just 61 minutes! It was their fourth clash at the ATP Finals and the first in the round-robin stage, battling in the semi-final in 2006 and 2007 and the final in the previous year.
In terms of the scoreline, this was the most impressive win for the Swiss in countless encounters they had over the years, dominating from start to finish and cementing his edge over Rafa on an indoor court. The surface was not very fast and it allowed Roger to build the points around his forehand, while the low bounce kept him safe against Nadal's topspins.
Rafa had nothing in his arsenal that would harm Roger on that day, standing powerless against the sheer strength of the rival's strokes and struggling in almost every point, clueless about what he had to do to make things working his way.
The Spaniard toppled Roger in the previous three matches that season in Miami, Madrid and Roland Garros but this was never his part of the season, finishing the tournament in the round-robin stage after losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the last clash to miss the semi-final entry.
On the other hand, Roger was ready for this meeting, heading to London after winning 17 of the last 18 matches, including titles in Basel and Paris. He did just about everything right against Rafa, dropping eight points on serve and never facing a break point, conquering more than half of the points on the return and scoring four breaks from six opportunities to overwhelm the Spaniard in every department.
The majority of the points stayed on his racquet, playing with the aggression and determination to control the rallies at any cost, making just 15 errors in total. As always in these encounters, Roger's backhand was the key shot and unlike many times before Rafa failed to draw errors from that wing, with no plan B how to impose his shots and finish the battle at least with a more positive result and a few extra games on his tally.
Federer committed only six mistakes from his backhand side and that gave him the room to hit a full attacking mode with his forehand, rattling off winner after winner and keeping Nadal vulnerable from every part of the court.
The Swiss had 14 service winners and constructed the points nicely with an aggressive first groundstroke, opening the court for a direct point or forcing an error from the Spaniard. Nadal had eight unreturned serves but five of those came in his opening two service games, unable to score free points in the rest of the match while needing them badly after losing the advantage in the baseline rallies.
He served at 73% which gave him nothing, with Roger having the upper hand on both the first and second serve return, using his anticipation and deep returns to grab an early advantage in the rallies. Nadal never found his groundstrokes, finishing the match with pale three winners in comparison to Roger who counted to 21, firing 15 from his forehand alone!
The Swiss felt comfortable on the court right from the start, hitting only nine unforced errors despite deep and offensive shots, just two more than Nadal. Roger also stayed on six forced errors, another demonstration of how inferior was Rafa in the exchanges as he counted to 12, with no time to prepare for his shots and with a lot of open space on his side of the court that Federer exploited so nicely.
The Spaniard's strokes lacked depth and power, standing no chance without rival's backhand errors as Roger outplayed him with a textbook attacking tennis. Federer grabbed two-thirds of the shortest points up to four strokes, claiming 32 out of 48 points and having a 12-8 advantage in the mid-range points from five to eight shots.
He also dominated in the longest exchanges, which is not often the case against Rafa, taking ten out of 13 points to overpower his rival completely. Roger kicked off the match with a double fault but held after three winners, with a solid opening game for Nadal as well.
They had seven winners in total in games three and four but Roger looked like a more determined player from the field, with Nadal hanging in thanks to five service winners. Federer already hit four forehand winners after the opening five games and broke Rafa at love to move 4-2 ahead.
There were no free points for Nadal in this game, struggling to keep the pace with Roger in the exchanges after the Swiss hit two winners to earn three break chances, converting the first after a 33-stroke rally to outplay Nadal once again from the baseline with his steady groundstrokes.
The Swiss continued to push strong with his serve and forehand, opening a 5-2 gap with four winners in game seven after just 24 minutes. From 30-15 down in game eight, Nadal managed to hold and reduce the deficit to 5-3, hitting his first winner from the court, and he had to break Roger in the next game to prolong the set.
He couldn't even think about break points, as Roger closed the set with great forehands, taking the opener 6-3 and keeping the result firmly in his hands. He was 8-5 in front in service winners and fired ten direct points from the field against only one from Nadal, which made all the difference.
Roger had two unforced errors more (6-4) but would take that all day long considering how many winners he landed, while Rafa finished the set with more forced errors, six in comparison to five from Federer. Nadal needed a good start in the second set but wasted a game point to lose serve instead, which indicated his ultimate fall.
Roger stayed in the game after a 13-shot rally and sealed the break with his tenth forehand winner since the beginning of the clash. The Swiss confirmed the break with three service winners in the second game and didn't stop there, breaking again in game three to march towards the victory!
Federer won four medium and longer rallies to keep Nadal without any answer, staying in the exchanges comfortably and keeping his backhand safe until he got a chance to attack with his flaming forehand. In the final point of the game, Roger had to hit seven shots from his backhand wing and did that without any troubles, giving Nadal no opportunity to attack and keeping the balls closer to the baseline until the Spaniard made a mistake.
Federer continued to stream winners from all over the court and three of those gave him the fourth game, moving just two games away from the victory. Rafa faded from the court and got broken again in game five since Roger played better and better, pumped and motivated to score the most impressive triumph over his nemesis and seal the deal in style.
He created two break points with two return winners but Nadal fended off both, only to drop another long rally and the game when Roger placed a backhand winner into an empty court. Federer crossed the finish line with three winners in game six after only an hour, celebrating his most one-sided win over Nadal and moving towards the title defense, which he did after beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final.