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Beaming Federer ends Nadal’s streak in style

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:32

The game’s biggest rivalry is back on. Roger Federer beat a weary-looking Rafael Nadal in his back yard to claim the Madrid Masters 1000 6-4 6-4 for his first title of the season.

It was only the second victory Federer has on clay against the world No.1, with the other coming at the Hamburg final two years ago, and his first in a final in two years. The win also ended Federer’s five-match losing streak to Nadal.

“It doesn’t help to play four hours yesterday” – Nadal

“He was simply better than me,” said Nadal, whose 33-match clay winning streak is over just one week ahead of the French Open, where the Spaniard is bidding for a fifth straight title.

The top two players in the world were in good spirits at the trophy ceremony in a scene that contrasted with Federer’s tearful display after losing to Nadal in the Australian Open final earlier this year.

Only Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe have met in more finals than the pair, playing for a 16th time with Nadal having earned 11 titles. Nadal leads the overall head-to-head 13-7.

Federer, the only top-10 player to have ever beaten Nadal on clay, saved two Nadal break points before setting up a chance of his own with a forehand winner down the line. The world No.2, often charged with not taking his chances against the Spaniard, converted at the first time of asking when Nadal weakly backhanded into net, and served out to love to take the opening set.

Nadal’s grueling semi final against Novak Djokovic had clearly taken its toll as he failed to run down many balls with his trademark tenacity.

“I’m sorry to spoil the party” – Federer

“It doesn’t help to play four hours yesterday,” said the world No.1, who also pointed to his troubles with the pace of play in Madrid on account of the higher altitude.

Federer, whose straight-sets semi-final victory over Juan Martin del Potro was a much more straightforward affair, played a deft drop shot to bring up a break point in game five of the second set, and took a 3-2 lead when the Spaniard hit long.

Nadal briefly rallied the 12,500-strong Caja Magica crowd after reaching break point with Federer serving for the title, but crunched a cross-court backhand wide.

Federer netted his first match point but produced an ace to close it out at the second time of asking. It is the Swiss’ first Masters title since Cincinnati in 2007, and first title of any kind since winning in Basel in October last year.

“I’m sorry to have beaten a Spaniard on your court, I’m sorry to spoil the party,” he told tournament director Manolo Santana on the showcase court named in his honour. It is the first time the pair have met in Spain, and only Nadal’s fifth defeat on clay in five years.

“Rafa,” Federer added, “you’ve had a great run on clay, again.”

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