His Swedish opponent Robin Soderling, who vanquished the 16-time grand slam champion at the same semi-final stage last year, had taken the first set here again.
Familiar scenario, but Federer relieved to edge out Soderling
ABU DHABI // Such is the confidence that comes with being arguably the greatest player to have picked up a racket, Roger Federer was only momentarily concerned when he found himself in an all-too familiar position in the capital.
His Swedish opponent Robin Soderling, who vanquished the 16-time grand slam champion at the same semi-final stage last year, had taken the first set at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on a tie-break, with Federer staring at another early exit.
However, a break early in the second settled the world No 2 as he then displayed the adroitness that has had his rivals running scared since he claimed a first major title at Wimbledon in 2003, eventually securing a 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 6-3 win against Soderling as the sun set at Zayed Sports City Tennis Complex.
Yet, Federer admitted missing out on the final in Abu Dhabi for a third successive year had flickered across his mind.
"Worried is too strong a word, but the writing was on the wall that it was going to happen again," Federer said. "Soderling was playing well, but I just tried to hang in the match and create a chance, which I was able to do.
"I knew I had to play really aggressive on a fast court against an opponent who needs a bit of time to set up his shots, and I was finally able to turn it around."
Federer's reward for defeating Soderling is a tempting tussle today with Rafael Nadal, the world No 1, although, having faced the Spaniard twice in the past few weeks, the 29-year-old insists familiarity has not bred contempt.
"We're not sick and tired of each other yet, so I'll take another match against Rafa," Federer said.
"This is an opportunity to try out a few things and just play a bit more relaxed and see a clear picture of what I'm trying to do. That's why I really enjoy this tournament a lot."
As for Soderling, he tempered his disappointment by concentrating on the positives gleaned from his time in the Emirates.
"I had two good matches against two of the best players in the world and was able to try a few things I've been working on in the off-season," he said. "I have to add to my game and this has been the best opportunity possible to try those things in matches."