Roger Federer maintained his perfect record against Rafael Nadal in 2017 with a straight-sets victory in the Shanghai Masters final on Sunday.
The top two players in men's tennis have met four times this year – three in finals – and on each occasion Federer has come out on top, his latest win keeping alive his hope of usurping Nadal to finish 2017 as world number one.
As on so many occasions before the old rivals put on a stunning display in China, but it was Federer who just had the edge as he recorded a 6-4 6-3 victory, his 700th hard-court success.
"Today I think you played a fantastic match, so congratulations," said a visibly disappointed Nadal.
The final extended the duo's stunning return from the injuries that brought an early end to their 2016 seasons.
"Almost (a year) to this day Rafa and myself were in Mallorca and opened your Rafael Nadal Academy," a reflective Federer said.
"We didn't think we were going to have the year we have. I definitely didn't.
"It's just nice to share this court with you today and hopefully there's more to come in the tournaments we've got left.
"It's been a pleasure playing against you again today."
From the outset Federer was on the front foot and it immediately paid off as he broke Nadal in the opening game – a scintillating backhand winner securing the early advantage after he had seen two previous openings saved brilliantly by the Spaniard.
Unfortunately for Nadal – who could have claimed a record 31st Masters crown with victory – making any kind of inroads on Federer's serve proved impossible, the second seed imperious as he dropped just four points in the opening set.
Add to that seven aces, 16 winners and just five unforced errors and it was no wonder Federer was soon celebrating moving a set ahead – a second hold to love doing the job.
The high quality tennis continued in the second set as Nadal prowled the baseline, while Federer mixed up his game superbly – approaching the net with such grace when the opportunity presented itself.
Both men found seemingly impossible angles to produce stunning winners, Federer finding two with his backhand in the fifth game that proved crucial.
Having applied pressure with those elegant winners, Federer then set up camp at the net and got his reward with a sumptuous backhand volley to bring up a break chance – Nadal firing wide to allow his rival to edge ahead.
And that seemed to end Nadal's resistance as four games later – after two more comfortable holds from Federer – the Spaniard stared down three match points.
He saved the first but fired a forehand into the net on the second to give Federer his 350th Masters win and a second Shanghai crown.