AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have done battle now on 26 different occasions. Each match sets the tennis world a buzz, anticipating the high levels, that each player can produce at any moment. Those moments have been few and far between lately, having only met twice this year prior to London. Once was a tightly contested French Open final, and the other a semifinal match in Miami; both Nadal wins.

The two were paired together in the same group in London, a first for the two players. That immediately set the stage as the most anticipated round-robin match of the 2011 Barclay’s ATP World Tour Finals. This would be the first time in 26 meetings that neither Federer nor Nadal was ranked No.1. Also of note, they would be playing in a slightly less significant match, as the loser still had a chance to qualify for the final weekend of the 2011 season.

Just the names alone, carry a special weight. Federer vs. Nadal. It has a special ring to it, even though history suggests a one-sided rivalry, the on court magic has never seemed to hold true the actual head to head record.  And though it wasn’t a very competitive match, Federer made sure that nobody would soon forget part XXVI.

Federer from start to finish, played as if it was 2006. His physical prime. That year of the 92-5 record, three Grand Slam titles, 12 tournament wins and 16 of 17 finals. He also won the the year end championship that same year. Today was a special performance from a player who has proven everything in a storied career, yet seems to attract a world of detractors. The match in all lasted just 61 minutes, and Nadal was on the losing end of a very “vintage” Federer display, a 6-3 6-0 master class. It was an very quick match, which is rare in any match that involves Nadal.

Although Federer still trails his overall career head-to-head against Nadal 17-9, the victory improves Federer’s record in indoor matches against Nadal to 4-0. He is actually 7-5 in matches that are not on clay, however, he is still 2-12 on Nadal’s preferred surface.

Federer never faced break point on his serve, and won a remarkable 53 percent of points off Nadal’s first serve. Federer fired 28 winners to Nadal’s four, a stat that looked just like it sounds. Federer never let Nadal work his way into the match, hitting winner after winner. He had a very determined look in his eye, something he hasn’t had in recent years. He seemed on a mission, to set himself apart. I do not think that he was playing against Nadal on this night. Instead he played against a shadow of his former self – Federer circa 2006.

With the emphatic win, Federer is the first player to clinch a spot in the semifinals of the 2011 Barclay’s World Tour Finals. Nadal will face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his final round-robin match Thursday, the winner of that match will advance. There is a small chance that Federer vs. Nadal XXVII could take place on Sunday, and with the form that Federer displayed on this day, he would certainly welcome a chance to further improve that head to head number.

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