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Federer Sets Up Nadal SF After Comeback Win

London, England

Roger Federer clinched a spot in the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals on Saturday afternoon.

The sixth seed and six-time former champion battled back from a 0-3 deficit in the third set to beat fourth seed and 2009 runner-up Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-5 to finish in second position in Group B for a clash against top seed and 2010 finalist Rafael Nadal on Sunday.

Nadal leads Federer 21-10 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series and has won their past three matches at the BNP Paribas Masters in Indian Wells, the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome and the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, all this year.

Federer improved to a 45-16 match record on the season and has now qualified for the semi-finals at the prestigious event in 11 of the past 12 years (except 2008).  He has a 4-0 mark against Nadal at the season finale, including two wins each at Shanghai and London.

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Del Potro broke Federer in the first and fifth games of the first set, as Federer committed seven forehand errors to trail 1-5. Federer staged a rousing comeback, but despite hitting 15 winners and clinching nine of 10 net points won, del Potro saved two break points to seal the 41-minute opener.

Del Potro seized control of their third FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting in as many weeks (also Basel and Paris) when Federer hit a backhand into the net at 1-1, 15/40. Federer walked to his chair with his head bowed.

It proved to be a temporary blip as Federer broke del Potro to love in the sixth game after a double fault. Without any further chances against serve, a tie-break was inevitable. Federer opened up a 4-1 lead in the tie-break and clinched the 50-minute set with his seventh ace.

With del Potro serving first in the decider, the pressure was on Federer. When he buckled in the second game at 15/40, after he struck his 18th forehand error, del Potro went on to take a 3-0 lead.

"I was probably slightly angry more than thinking it's going to be over soon," said Federer, when asked about how he felt at 0-3 in the third set. "It's one of those moments today, because I kind of fought back the whole match – the first, second set. Here we go again."

But Federer drew on his reserves to fight back to 3-3 for a very tense finale.

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At 5-5, 15/40, del Potro mis-timed a forehand to gift Federer the chance to serve for the match. Federer saved a break point in the next game and clinched victory with his 10th ace. The match lasted two hours and 26 minutes. 

"I wasn't in many of Juan Martin's service games, so I kind of felt like probably I will get one more chance to break back. It's exactly what happened," said Federer. "Once on even terms, I was able to play a little bit more freely.

"For the first time I was almost feeling like I was kind of in the lead. [It was a] great finish. I was very happy. To get the victory was a great feeling, so I was very happy."

Federer hit 13 of his 39 winners in the third set, when he lost four of his first service points.

"I think I got two chances to win the match," said del Potro. "I broke his serve in the second set and in the third one. But he played great when I was up, and he deserved to come back in both sets. But at the end, when you have to be focus and find the winners, I made the mistakes and he was there really focused to take the chance. I think that was the key of the match."

AT A GLANCE

(6) Roger Federer d. (4) Juan Martin del Potro 46 76(2) 75 

Six-time Barclays ATP World Tour Finals champion Roger Federer rallied to defeat Juan Martin del Potro 46 76(2) 75 to earn the last semi-final spot.  Federer will take on No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 2 Novak Djokovic will face No. 7 Stanislas Wawrinka in the semi-finals on Sunday.

This is the 11th time in 12 years (except ’08) the Swiss native has earned a spot in the semi-finals. Ivan Lendl holds the record for most semi-final appearances (12) in the season finale.

The 32-year-old Swiss native is the oldest to reach the semi-finals in the season finale since Andre AgassI (33) in 2003. Agassi lost to Federer in the final

This is also the second time the Big 3 of Nadal, Djokovic and Federer have reached the semi-finals together at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. In 2010, Federer defeated Djokovic and Nadal beat Andy Murray in the semi-finals. Federer defeated Nadal in the final.

This was the third meeting in as many weeks between del Potro and Federer, who has an overall 15-5 head-to-head advantage. Their last seven meetings have come down to a decisive set (third or fifth) with Federer prevailing four times.  

On Sunday, Nadal and Federer will square off for the 32nd time (Nadal leads 21-10) and the Spaniard has won the past three meetings this season. They will meet for the fifth time in the season finale and Federer has won the previous four meetings in 2006 (SF), ’07 (SF), ’10 (Final) and ’11 (RR).  Federer has won eight of the nine sets.

The Argentine, who reached the final at The O2 in 2009 (l. to Davydenko) and semi-finals last year (l. to Djokovic), finishes the season with a 51-16 match record and four ATP World Tour titles. He will finish No. 5 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time since 2009.

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