Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer Advance to Final of Shanghai Rolex Masters 2017

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistOctober 14, 2017

SHANGHAI, CHINA - OCTOBER 14:  Rafael Nadal of Spain returns a shot during his Men's singles semi-final match against Marin Cilic of Croatia on day 7 of 2017 ATP Shanghai Rolex Masters at Qizhong Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by XIN LI/Getty Images)
XIN LI/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal will meet Roger Federer in the final of the 2017 Shanghai Rolex Masters after both won their semi-final matches in China on Saturday.

Nadal beat Marin Cilic 7-5, 7-6(3) before Federer came from a set down to eventually beat Juan Martin del Potro 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Federer and Nadal will next face off in the final on Sunday, with the match starting at 9:30 a.m. UK time, per Sky Sports.

Things started brightly between Cilic and Nadal, with a thrilling opening game won by the latter thanks to this terrific volley, relayed by Tennis TV:

Each player held serve over the first eight games of the opening set, battling to a 4-4 stalemate, before Cilic rescued a 15-30 deficit to again hold for a 5-4 lead. The decisive break nearly went Cilic's way in the next game, with the Croatian 40-15 ahead after a superb forehand stroke, but Nadal battled back brilliantly to hold and even the set.

This deft drop shot at the net put Nadal in control during the key game:

Momentum was shifting and swung firmly Nadal's way when he earned the first break of serve to move 6-5 ahead. The Spaniard then made the most of his chance when serving for the set.

Tennis writer Simon Cambers of The Guardian saluted Nadal's determination not to yield the hard-fought set:

Nadal got his first break of serve earlier in the second set, frustrating Cilic to take a 2-1 lead. It was 4-4 when Nadal broke to again go in front at 5-4 before Cilic broke back to even the set.

However, Cilic couldn't see things out at 6-5 ahead, and Nadal won the tiebreak with room to spare to end a fine match and book his place in the final.

The win continued Nadal's impressive streak against Cilic, per David Law of BBC Radio 5 live:

Yet Federer found himself stunned by Del Potro early on, with the Argentinian assuming control from the start to eventually claim the opening set 6-3.

Former British No. 1 Annabel Croft was particularly impressed by how well Del Potro was playing after falling on his wrist during a quarter-final win over Viktor Troicki on Friday, per BBC Sport.

Croft, who was providing analysis for Sky Sports, tweeted:

Del Potro was in the groove, but Federer roared back in the second set, re-establishing his serving power. The 36-year-old repaid Del Potro handsomely, winning the set 6-3 to force a decider.

Tennis commentator Nick Lester, of ATP Media and others, showed how recent history offered no clue about who would have the edge in the final set:

It was Del Potro's turn to hold serve at the start of the third. Just as it had done earlier, falling behind seemed to inspire Federer, as the decorated veteran raced through the next two games, earning a crucial break when Del Potro slammed a forehand against the net.

The break had given Federer the comfort of simply leaning on his service games, and he looked under little threat at 4-2. Federer won his next service game to put him on the brink of victory before forcing a second break to finally fight his way through.

It will be another intriguing chapter in the lengthy rivalry between Federer and Nadal, as the latter is in superb form, while Federer is showing no signs of slowing down.