Federer Stymied Again by Nadal in Dubai Final

Posted on March 5, 2006

Roger Federer went to bed Saturday night as the No. 1 player by a longshot, but his sleep had to be anything but restful.

On Saturday in the final at the ATP stop in Dubai, world No. 2 Rafael Nadal took the Swiss' best in the first set, then turned around the match for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 win, his third in four career meetings with Federer.

"This in unbelievable, this is so special," an emotional Nadal told reporters. "To win in my second event back, I could have never dreamed it. Roger is a great champion, one of the best in history. This is a great victory. I don't have the words right now, I'm so happy."

It was the 10th consecutive win in a final for Nadal, who was playing in only his second tournament of the year after returning from a foot injury that caused him to miss the Australian Open.

The defeat ended for Federer a 16-match winning streak, an incredible 56-match winning streak on hardcourts alone, and a 29-match winning streak in the Middle East, the Swiss' favorite playground over the last four years.

The loss was particularly dispiriting considering Federer will likely have to beat Nadal on clay en route to the French Open title that has eluded him, while lately he can't even conquer the Spaniard on the favored hardcourts that suit his game.

Federer's sterling play in the first set included the final eight points to close it out.

In the second set the Swiss' level dropped, while Nadal became more aggressive to dictate play, breaking for a 5-4 lead before taking the set. In the third set Federer was broken in his opening service, and though the Swiss broke back for 2-2, Nadal again broke to go on to serve it out.

"I'm pleased with my run here in Dubai," Federer told reporters. "Rafa was just too good today. He was the better player. I'm still happy with my week here and the state of my game. I hope I can keep it up over the next weeks."

In the doubles final it was another No. 2 over No. 1 upset when Paul Hanley and Kevin Ullyett beat top seeds Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor 1-6, 6-2, 10-1 in a match tiebreak for their second title of the year.

"We got off to a shocking start," Ullyett said. "We started a bit flat. But with the new doubles format, all of a sudden the momentum can turn, and you just got to use it. That is what happened today. Our confidence after this victory is very high."