LONDON: Rafael Nadal has warned defending champion Novak Djokovic to expect a ferocious battle as the Spaniard bids to win the ATP World Tour Finals for the first time on Monday.
World number one Nadal swept aside Roger Federer 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals on Sunday to book just his second appearance in the final of the prestigious season-ending event at London’s O2 Arena.
The 13-time Grand Slam champion lost his only previous Tour Finals championship decider to Federer in 2010.
After spending seven months battling to recover from knee tendinitis, Nadal made a blistering return this year which has so far brought him 10 titles, including the French and US Opens, as well as top spot in the year-end world rankings.
With just one more match left before he can head home for a well-earned rest in Manacor, Nadal is determined to play at his most aggressive in his latest showdown with Djokovic, who will be looking for a third Tour Finals crown after beating Swiss seventh seed Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 6-3.
“For me every match means a lot and every tournament means a lot, but it’s true that this tournament is special and I never had the chance to win here,” Nadal said.
“So it will be great if I have the chance to finish the year with a victory. But I know a lot of work remains and probably the most difficult one is still to come.
“I think if I don’t play my best tomorrow, I don’t have a chance. I need to play more aggressive.”
Nadal took just 79 minutes on Sunday to extend his dominance over Federer to 22 wins from their 32 meetings.
And with Djokovic not playing his semi-final until Sunday evening, Nadal was asked whether he may have an advantage with his extra recovery time.
“The final is tomorrow evening so it’s not going to affect anything. If you had the final tomorrow afternoon, probably the player who is going to win tonight is going to be in a little bit worse position than me,” Nadal said.
“But that’s not the case. The winner will have a chance to sleep well in the morning.”
Fittingly, after a season dominated by Nadal and Djokovic, the top two in the world rankings get the chance to face off the final tour prize this year.
Between them they have won three of the four Grand Slams in 2013, as well as 13 other titles.
Djokovic won their last clash in the Beijing final last month, but Nadal holds a 22-16 edge over their 38 meetings, including a victory in the US Open final in September.
“The most important thing is on the toughest surface for me to play, I have been able to win four matches against top-eight players,” Nadal said.
“Now there remains the last match. I hope to be ready for that. I know it’s going to be a difficult one and I need to play my best match to have a chance.”
Djokovic had little trouble setting up the dream finale as he brushed aside Wawrinka in one hour and 24 minutes to extend his winning run to 21 matches since the US Open.
“It’s going to be a great final,” he said. “I hope all the crowd will enjoy it because we definitely do on the court.
“It’s always a thrilling competition between me and Rafa. Let’s say we know each other quite well. There’ll be no secret between us on the court. The better will win.”