Rotterdam, Netherlands – Roger Federer needed three sets and two hours, 15 minutes, but the Swiss world No. 3 took down Russian Nikolay Davydenko to advance to the final at the ABN AMRO World tournament.
Top-seeded Federer lost a tightly-contested set early but rallied after dropping a break in the second set to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the second of Saturday's semifinals in Rotterdam.
Davydenko, formerly world No. 3 himself, had won just one match in 2012 entering the tournament, an opening-round bout at Montpellier. He had faced Federer in Doha to begin his season, a much more one-sided affair that the Swiss won 6-2, 6-2 in just 54 minutes. Federer owned a 16-2 overall record against Davydenko entering this encounter.
He had a reason to be concerned in this match, however. After losing the first set, Federer quickly fell behind 1-3 in the second. His championship instincts took over, though, and he would win the next five points, launching a message-sending ace to end the set.
The third set was just as tight as the first, but Davydenko was not as lucky this time, dropping one of the seven break chances he offered. Federer saved all four of his as he booked a ticket to the final, where he will face Argentine Juan Martin del Potro.
The third-seeded del Potro needed just 75 minutes in a 6-3, 6-1 rout of Tomas Berdych in the first semifinal.
Berdych had lost just once this season entering Saturday's match. After a quarterfinal setback to Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open, he won the title in Montpellier two weeks ago and last week won his lone match in the Czech Republic's victory over Italy in the Davis Cup.
Seeded second this week, Berdych had also steamrolled through his first three opponents without dropping a set. It all changed on Saturday.
Del Potro opened the match with a break of serve and didn't face a break point during the first set. Berdych, meanwhile, struggled with his serve, connecting on just 52 percent in the first set. He was called for a foot fault for a double fault to set up del Potro's clinching break point to finish off the opening set.
Again, del Potro picked up an early break in the second set for a 2-0 edge. But Berdych won three of the first four points in the next game to gain two break points. He squandered both and del Potro's ace closed out the game for a 3-0 lead.
Berdych appeared deflated afterward, again dropping his serve. He went down 0-5 before finally winning a game, but del Potro quickly wrapped it up and improved to 3-1 lifetime against Berdych.
Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champ, will be gunning for his 10th career title on Sunday. He is 9-4 all-time in finals, including 2-1 last year when he made a successful comeback from a wrist injury that sidelined him for most of the 2010 campaign.
Federer won the Rotterdam title the last time he appeared in the tournament, back in 2005. He has yet to win an ATP title in 2012.
The 2012 Rotterdam winner will collect $385,000.