Cheeky Fed tactic that reversed Rafa's reign

Rafael Nadal leads 23-15 head-to-head against Roger Federer, but the Swiss great has revealed how he's managed to turn the tables in recent times.

With victory in Sunday night's Shanghai Masters final, Federer made it 4-0 against Nadal in 2017, and 5-0 in their last five match-ups dating back to last year.

Nadal has historically dominated against his great rival, leading many to question how Federer can be considered the greatest player of all time if he struggles to beat his biggest threat.

But with his fifth consecutive victory against Rafa on Sunday, Federer has well-and-truly turned the tide, and his reason for the change in fortunes is pretty simple: Not playing Nadal on clay.

Federer was too good in Shanghai. Image: Getty
Federer was too good in Shanghai. Image: Getty

Nadal owns a 13-2 overall record against Federer on the Spaniard's preferred surface, but the Swiss maestro opted not to play the French Open this year as Rafa snared a record 10th Roland Garros title.

Federer also missed the 2016 French Open through injury, but purposely opted out of this year's clay court season in a move that had many suggesting he'd done so simply to avoid playing Nadal.

Whether or not he did remains to be seen, but Federer happily admits it has helped him gain an edge over Nadal this year.

"Clearly avoiding him – not playing him on clay has helped,” said Federer after the Shanghai final.

“I'm able to stay on the hard courts or on faster courts against him, I have been playing very well when I have faced off against him."

Federer also believes he has gained a newfound psychological advantage over Rafa.

“I'm not so scarred like maybe I have been in the past, not that I was horribly scarred in any way, but I did lose against him sometimes, a lot of the times especially on the clay courts.

"I do believe I still lost that Wimbledon final in '08 because of the French Open beatdown he gave me. It just affected my first two sets when I played him at Wimbledon."

Nadal 'beat down' Federer in 2008. Image: Getty
Nadal 'beat down' Federer in 2008. Image: Getty

Federer has now shifted his focus to the end-of-year ATP finals in London rather than regaining the world No.1 ranking, conceding fighting Nadal for the top spot is a long shot.

"London is my priority now and I really want to win the World Tour Finals," he said. "Everything that comes now is a bonus after the year that I've had.

"Finishing as No.1 is a long shot, and I don't think it will happen but if I play like this, who knows? Maybe I will get close again."

Nadal still owns a sizeable lead. Image: ATP
Nadal still owns a sizeable lead. Image: ATP

The world No.2 has not decided as yet whether to play his home event in Basel starting in a week.

"The year has been long, yes, but I haven't played that much, to be honest," the 19-times grand slam winner said.

"The body is fine. I'm going to reassess everything after I come home to Switzerland tomorrow. I will get together with my team and just come up with a plan, set the priorities, see how my body feels tomorrow.

"But so far I'm good, I'm happy I'm feeling this way. It's been a tough week - five straight matches is always a test and a challenge for anybody's body, especially with the pressure rising throughout the event."

Federer's 94th career title pulls him level alongside Ivan Lendl to second on the all-time list, with both men trailing the 109 of Jimmy Connors.

Federer won his 350th match at the Masters 1000 level as he claimed his 27th trophy in the elite series. The 36-year-old Swiss now owns six titles from 2017 - the same as Nadal.

The Spaniard, who played with a taping on his knee, may be a non-starter for the Swiss 500 level event beginning a week from Monday.

"I don't know, I need to think about it. No, no, I cannot (decide right now). I cannot tell you."

with AAP