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Heading onto the court, Nadal hadn't dropped a service game all week - that equalled up to 32 straight service games won. All that changed at the hands of Marin Cilic, who had the temerity to break Nadal's serve not once, but twice, in the match.
However, Federer was in control from the first ball, looking to break down Nadal's defence with an assault of forehands and backhands.
Nadal gave a tough competition to the 19-time Grand Slam champion in the first set, but the Swiss maestro maintained his early lead to win the set 6-4. The Spaniard was initially going strong in the second set but Federer came back to break the serve and take the lead in the second set, ultimately winning it by 6-3.
The 36-year-old executed his game-plan to perfection throughout the 71-minute affair, sealing the win on his second match point when a Nadal forehand found the net. It was Federer's fourth victory of the year over his Spanish rival.
The World No 2 had earlier defeated Nadal in the finals of the Australian Open and Miami Masters and in the last 16 at Indian Wells.