Nadal Legend Grows With 1st Hardcourt Title

Posted on August 15, 2005

French Open champ Rafael Nadal silenced his hardcourt critics Sunday with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 power display over Andre Agassi in the final of the Masters Series-Canada in Montreal.

It was the first career hardcourt title for the Spanish teen, who earlier in the year led world No. 1 Roger Federer two sets to love in the MS-Miami final before succumbing.

"Now I know I can play on hardcourt," said Nadal, who surpasses Federer with 10 titles in 2005. "That gives me confidence going into the US Open.

Agassi chose to slug it out from the baseline with the Spanish teen in the early goings, but found Nadal's speed and tenacity often brought back one ball too many, eventually forcing errors from the American.

Often Agassi would get Nadal on the stretch-run with the Spaniard then slicing back a floater, but rather than being at the net for the put-away, Agassi stuck to the baseline with a total of two net approaches during the first set.

"I controlled play in the first set. He let me play my game," Nadal said of Agassi's suspect strategy.

In the second set, after a rain delay and some coaching from Darren "Killer" Cahill, Agassi switched gears and won seven of his 10 net approaches, breaking Nadal with the Spaniard serving at 4-5 to force a third set.

"After the rain delay, he changed his strategy and played his backhand against mine, which got to me," Nadal said. "In the last set, he started strong, but I managed to win the points."

The No. 2-ranked Nadal is now within 73 points of the world No. 1 Federer in 2005-only points, with a renewed race for the coveted year-end No. 1 ranking.

Agassi said the teen's ball control and speed were too much in their first-time meeting.

"He does a lot of things really well," Agassi said. "Just a great mover on the court. Gets good power from very stretched positions so you're never quite sure if you have complete control of the point. I found his serve more awkward than I was anticipating because if you don't hit a good return, he immediately gets on the offense. That's a sign of a great player -- somebody who can play good defense, but also when they get ahold of a point, they don't let go of it."

In the doubles final the No. 4-seeded team of Zimbabweans Black/Ullyett defeated unseeded Israelis Erlich/Ram 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-0 for their second title of the year in their fourth final, first winning the Australian Open in January.