Roger Federer squeezed through his toughest test of the week as he fought off Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5) to reach the final of his home Swiss Indoors event on Saturday.
The world No. 1 had to get past a battling third-set tiebreaker against Asia's best player and was scheduled to face Chile's Fernando Gonzalez in a rematch of last weekend's final in Madrid.
Down 2-4 and 3-5 in the final-set decider against Paradorn, Federer admitted: "I was thinking then that I'd always have a chance here next year.
"My thoughts are always clear and I have no illusions," said the game's dominator and master strategist. "I knew I was not in good shape at that point."
The Swiss lifted his form to survive, helped by a debatable line call which went in his favor on Paradorn's baseline.
Paradorn was not disappointed at the end, though.
"I'm not bothered at all. This was a `good' loss; I have no negative thoughts after such a high level of tennis," the Thai star said.
"I'm coming back; I've been working hard; I've improved my fitness a lot. Every win counts for the confidence," he said.
Federer advanced in just under two hours on his second chance after Paradorn had saved a match point in the tenth game of the third set.
Federer, the world No. 1 and a former Basel ballboy, stands at 86-5 this year, a victory away from an 11th title this season.
Gonzalez powered into his third final this season with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Stanislas Wawrinka, another Swiss player.
The Chilean has been the ironman of the indoor season, losing finals this month against Ivan Ljubicic in Vienna and going down to Federer for the eighth time in his career on Oct. 22 in Spain.
"Today was by far my best match of the event," said the contender for a place in next month's Masters Cup in Shanghai. "I'm tired but I'm happy."
"I have a big motivation now, but playing Federer is so difficult. You usually only have one chance against him and you have to take it," he said.
Federer, who is keen to win his home event after losing finals here to Thomas Enqvist and Tim Henman, went into yesterday's final with an 8-0 career lead over Gonzalez.
"Last week was a tough match at the start and I'm expecting the same here," Federer said. "This is the first time that I've actually been a favorite in a Basel final," he said.
Federer lost in the finals in Basel in 2000 and 2001.
Saturday's victory also boosted Gonzalez' chances of qualifying for next month's season-ending Masters Cup in Shanghai, with the last four spots in the eight-man event to be decided over the next eight days.
Gonzalez becomes the third man this season behind Federer and Rafael Nadal to enter three finals in succession on the tour.
The South American has now won 24 of 30 matches and stands ninth in the annual rankings.