Federer has won 17 Grand Slam tournaments in his career as the only player from Switzerland to ever make a final at a major, but now at this year's Australian Open his good friend and compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka won his way to his first final when he beat Tomas Berdych on Thursday night.
That allowed the Swiss pair and their country back home to dream briefly of Federer and Wawrinka doing battle in Sunday night's final, but standing in the way of that was world No. 1 Spaniard Nadal and he proved to be too much for Federer to handle in the 33rd meeting between the pair.
Federer had not beaten Nadal at a Grand Slam tournament since the 2007 Wimbledon final, had never beaten the Spaniard at the Australian Open and had lost his last four against the world No. 1, and he couldn’t change that trend on Friday night.
Nadal won the first set in a tight tie-break, but then managed to cruise through the next two sets to record the 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-3 victory over Federer in just two hours and 24 minutes.
The result means that Nadal has now won five straight matches over Federer to hold a 23-10 record overall against the Swiss champion.
Nadal has dropped just the one set all the way through to the Australian Open final where he will face Wawrinka on Sunday night as the Spaniard tries to win just his second title in Melbourne.
For Wawrinka, he will be looking for a night of firsts come Sunday with the 28-year-old playing in his first Grand Slam final and also looking to beat Nadal for the first time in his 13th attempt.
The match started with both players serving strongly in the first set with Nadal opening up the first two break points of the match in the seventh game.
However, Federer managed to save those two break points and then another in the ninth game before also holding on there with the set heading into the tie-break.
Nadal, though, quickly got on top in the tie-break to lead five points to one. Federer did manage to win the next three points to steady, but the Spaniard closed it out winning seven points to four to put himself in a strong position.
Federer's feathers were then ruffled when Nadal not only took a bathroom break at the end of the set, but then also took an injury time-out after one game of the set to have his blistered left hand tended to.
The grunting during play of Nadal also irked Federer, but nothing came of any of his complaints to the chair umpire and a tense second battle eventuated.
Federer had to save three break points in the third game of the second set, but he managed to do so.
However, Nadal then raced to a 15-40 lead on Federer's next service game and this time broke him to lead 4-2 and then go on to claim the third set six games to three in 47 minutes.
The 32-year-old Federer then had to find something special but it didn’t look likely when Nadal broke him to lead 2-1 early in the third set.
However, Federer managed to break Nadal's serve for the first, and only, time of the night straightaway to tie things back up at 2-2 and the crowd inside Rod Laver Arena appreciated the fight and were urging on the Swiss master to put up plenty more against Nadal.
Federer had to fight back from trailing 15-40 in the next game to hold on and lead 3-2, but that would be the last game he won for the night with Nadal winning the next four games straight to take out the set, and the match, with a six games to three result in the third set.
It was a near faultless performance from Nadal right throughout the night with the world No. 1 hitting 28 winners to 25 unforced errors, conceding just two break points all night and breaking Federer's serve on four occasions from 14 opportunities.
He also only lost 15 points on his first serve all match and just eight on his second.
Federer didn’t play badly by any stretch, but the world No. 1 was a cut above with Federer hitting eight aces and 34 winners, but he did have 50 unforced errors and could only win 50 per cent of his second serves.