In 2012, Rafael Nadal claimed the record-breaking seventh Roland Garros crown, completing another impressive clay-court swing and hoping for more of the same in the rest of the season. Instead, the Spaniard missed the season's second part due to a left knee injury, finishing outside the top-2 for the first time since 2004 and staying away from the court until February 2013.
In one of the most impressive comebacks, Rafa claimed 75 wins in 83 encounters that year, lifting ten ATP titles and passing all the rivals to earn the year-end no. 1 award for the first time in three years. Following the US Open title, Nadal lost to Djokovic in the Beijing final and the semi-final in Shanghai and Paris before seeking the first ATP Finals crown in London.
Rafa defeated David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Stan Wawrinka to top the round-robin standings and set the semi-final clash against Roger Federer. In Group B, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer prevailed in a tight battle with Richard Gasquet and Juan Martin del Potro to reach the last four after ten three-setters in 12 encounters!
Djokovic defeated Stan Wawrinka in the semis before the 32nd clash between Rafa and Roger. The Spaniard had the upper hand on November 10 and secured a 7-5, 6-3 triumph in 80 minutes for the 22nd victory over the Swiss and the first under a roof, advancing into the second ATP Finals title match.
Roger entered the encounter with a 3-0 lead over Rafa on an indoor surface, celebrating victories at this event in 2006, 2007 and 2010 and hoping to prove his masterclass in these conditions. However, Nadal had other plans, fending off three out of four break chances and pushing Roger's second serve to the limits to secure four breaks from as many opportunities and cross the finish line first.
At the ATP Finals 2013, Rafael Nadal scored first indoor win over Roger Federer.
They had a similar number of winners and forced mistakes. The main difference came in the unforced errors department, where Federer counted over 30 after failing to match the rival's pace.
Serving well, Nadal had the advantage in the shortest range up to four strokes and took 17 out of 24 most extended rallies to seal the deal in straight sets and move into the final against Djokovic. Federer held at 15 in the first game, and Nadal responded with a quick hold at love after an ace to get his name on the scoreboard.
From 40-0 up, Roger lost three straight points to bring Rafa back to deuce in game three before closing it with two winners. Rafa leveled the score at 2-2 with another hold at love before facing troubles on the return in game six after offering Roger three break chances.
Staying calm, Nadal repelled two of those with forehand winners and another following Federer's massive forehand error that would cost him dearly. Delivering one good serve after another, Federer produced a hold at love to move 4-3 up, with Nadal repeating the same to lock the result.
Barely winning a point on the return so far, Rafa found a way to steal Roger's serve at 15 with a forehand winner and forge the advantage in game nine. Ready to fight, Federer broke back in the last moment at 4-5 to prolong the set and his chances.
Nonetheless, he netted a forehand in game 11 to push the Spaniard in front once again. Rafa made no mistakes this time around, landing four winners to seal the set 7-5 after 43 minutes and gathering a massive boost. Nadal placed a backhand down the line winner in the second set's fifth game to earn a break chance, seized it after Federer's terrible forehand and cemented the advantage with a comfortable hold that sent him 4-2 ahead.
Serving to stay in the match at 3-5, Roger suffered another break to propel Rafa into his second ATP Finals title match, celebrating the 22nd victory over a great rival and hoping for more of the same in the final against Novak.