The second-ranked Swiss defeated No. 3 Djokovic 6-1, 6-4 in the semifinals at the O2 Arena in London.
“It seems like it’s working this week,” Federer, who’s not lost a set in the tournament, said in a courtside interview. “I’m really happy, because I was playing against a player who had a great season.”
Federer, 29, is trying to join Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl as the only men to win the season-ending championships five times. Nadal, who’s yet to win the tournament that is contested by the best eight players in the world, has beaten Federer in 14 of their 21 meetings.
Nadal advanced to his first final by defeating Andy Murray of Britain, 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 7-6 (8-6) in a match that lasted three hours, 10 minutes. Federer only needed one hour, 19 minutes to advance.
“I think it was an incredible tennis match,” Nadal told a news conference. “I am very happy for everything because it was a really difficult match against one of the best players of the world.”
Federer easily won the first set from Djokovic after twice breaking serve and hitting 13 winners.
The 23-year-old Djokovic, who’ll play in the Davis Cup final against France next week, fought back in the second set to break for a 2-0 lead. Federer broke back to trail 3-2, and the 16-time major tournament winner forced a double break for 5-4 with a forehand return before serving out for the win.
Nadal had entered this year’s tournament after his most successful season, winning the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. His first title in New York made him the youngest man since tennis turned professional in 1968 to win all four majors.
The Spaniard took a 3-1 lead in the first-set tiebreaker and was up 5-3 when Murray won one of the longest rallies of the tournament with a volley. The 24-year-old then clenched his fists and shouted at his uncle and long-time coach Toni Nadal after he converted his first set point with a forehand drop shot.
The 23-year-old Murray, who will move one spot higher in the rankings to No. 4 next week, broke for a 4-3 lead in the second set. A forehand winner gave him the second set.
Serving at 1-1, 40-40 in the third set, Murray handed Nadal a break point with a drop shot attempt into the net. The Spaniard then broke serve for the first time in the match with a return.
After Nadal squandered his first match point at 5-3, Murray held with a drop shot. Serving for a place in the finals, Nadal made two unforced errors and a third mistake on his forehand to give Murray a break point, which the Scot took with a backhand to tie 5-5.
The set went to a tiebreaker and Murray raced to a 3-0 lead. Nadal fought back to 5-5 and Murray saved a second match point at 6-5 down. Nadal hit a forehand winner for the victory.
“Both of us played very well,” Murray told a news conference. “I probably played one bad game the whole match, or maybe just a couple of bad points. I’m disappointed to lose, but it was a great match.”
Canada’s Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia advanced to the doubles final with a 6-3, 3-6, 12-10 win over the top-ranked team of Bob and Mike Bryan of the U.S. Nestor and Zimonjic will meet India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi of Belarus, who defeated Poland’s Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski 6-4, 6-4.
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