Hamburg : World No. 1 Roger Federer and the king of clay Rafael Nadal will renew their rivalry in the Hamburg Masters final after they claimed comeback semi-final wins.
Federer won his semi-final game Saturday against Spain's Carlos Moya – 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 – in 2 hours, 7 minutes while Nadal got his 81st straight win on clay against Australian 16 seed Lleyton Hewitt, a dramatic 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, in 2.35 hours.
The Sunday final comes one year after both players withdrew from the tournament the day it started after contesting a five-hour final in Rome 24 hours earlier.
Federer will be bidding for his fourth Hamburg crown following wins in 2002, 2004 and 2005. He is coming off four competitions without a title and last week in Rome sacked his coach Tony Roche.
"My confidence is OK again. I just hope I can play one more match and take the title home."
Looking ahead at the French Open, the only Grand Slam he has never won and which starts on May 27, he added: "To beat Nadal in the final would boost my energy, confidence and motivation. But losing wouldn't be the end of the world."
The 2005 and 2006 French Open champ Nadal agreed.
"It is always special to play against Roger. But I have no pressure and will fly to the French Open with the same confidence (if I lose). My clay court season has been very good," he said.
Nadal leads the series 7-3 and he has won all the five matches on clay, the last in the Monte Carlo final on April 22. If he wins Sunday he will be the first player to win all clay Masters in one season, as he has already lifted the trophy in Monte Carlo and Rome.
"It is the final of an important tournament I have never won," said Nadal.
On Saturday, Federer opened the semi-final action in shaky fashion before posting his seventh win in as many matches against Moya, dropping serve in the opening game as Moya took the set.
The world leader raised his game in the second set and raced off to a 4-1 advantage as Moya finally committed some errors. Federer squandered three set points serving at 5-3, but locked the sets on his fourth attempt with a forehand winner.
The Swiss carried the momentum into the final set, reeling off the last four games and wrapping up matters with a forehand for his 49th winner compared to Moya's 29.
"It is nice to come back from one set down, especially in a semi-final against Moya. I missed some opportunities and had my back against the wall. But you have to give yourself the chance and impose your game," said Federer, who won his last 16 matches in Hamburg.
Moya said: "I felt I had the chance to beat him today. But in the important moments he brings out the best."
Hewitt had a great start into his match with Nadal and didn't go down easily in the last set in one the rare matches where the Spaniard had to fight until the end.
The classy finale brought the 10,000-strong crowd to its feet as Hewitt broke back for 4-4 with an overhead, and again for 5-5 after Nadal broke for 5-4 and aimed to serve out the match.
But he eventually ran out of luck as Nadal went on top again 6-5 and served out the match this time around – after saving another two break points from the big-fighting Hewitt – with a big forehand winner in the end for only his second win in six meetings with the Aussie.
"The match was crazy in the end. It was a tough match, Lleyton played at a good level," said Nadal.
Hewitt said: "He is the best player, you don't get any cheap points against him. You have to go out there and beat him. I didn't take my chances."