Nadal Vexes Federer Again in Rome Marathon

Posted on May 15, 2006

World No. 1 Roger Federer blew two match points on unforced errors and a break lead in the final set Sunday in the championship match of the Masters Series-Rome, losing for the fourth consecutive time to Rafael Nadal 6-7(0), 7-6(5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(5).

The win for Nadal was his second consecutive in a claycourt Masters Series final after Monte Carlo, both over Federer in the final, and was his 53rd consecutive win on clay, tying the Open Era record of renowned Argentine Guillermo Vilas.

Nadal fought off the two match points at 5-6 in the fifth set, and won on his first match point in the final tiebreak when the Swiss sent a forehand sailing long.

"I was lucky when he had match point he made a mistake with two forehands," Nadal said. "If he hits a good serve and he comes in with his forehand, there is nothing you can do."

Nadal's win also continues a string of nine straight claycourt tournament wins in a row dating to Monte Carlo in 2005.

Federer now has three losses in 2006, all coming at the hands of Nadal. The Swiss at times looked like he had put himself in position to get the Spanish monkey off his back, finding success in coming to the net behind deep, cracking topspin drives to Nadal's backhand.

"Obviously I would have liked to win, but I already knew after Monaco I was extremely close," Federer said. "I think this is another step closer...I should have won. He caught me right at the finish line."

One thing that didn't fail the Swiss in the five-set marathon was his fitness, especially after coming off long three-setters in the quarters and semifinals. The Swiss has shown a near-winning formula against the Spaniard, now it's just a matter of completing the deployment.

"For me just to hit and move backwards again, that's not the way I learned the game," Federer said. "My way of thinking is come to the net and finish it at the net. He hardly passed me today, which was a good feeling. So I have to keep that up."

In the doubles final No. 3 seeds Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor beat No. 6-seeded Israelis Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram 6-4, 5-7, 13-11 for their fourth title of the year.

"It was a great match," Knowles said. "We got off to a good start. They played good points in the second to win back. It was anybody's match at the end. We had a great week, and we're coming together really well as a team."