Federer Finds Form, Feeds Nadal a Bagel to End Streak in Hamburg

Posted on May 20, 2007

Roger Federer avenged two years of clay-court torment at the hands of Rafael Nadal Sunday, snapping the Spaniard's 81-match clay winning streak and denying him a historic sweep of the clay ATP Masters Series titles to win a fourth Hamburg title, 2-6, 6-2, 6-0.

Federer claimed his first win in six career clay court meetings with Nadal and also avenged a loss to the Spaniard in the Masters Series Monte-Carlo final early in the clay swing. Federer has won three of their past four meetings, but still trails 4-7 lifetime.

"He just had 81 wins in a row on clay, thatís phenomenal," said Federer. "He gets the highest respect for that. If you know how physical it is you could think that once you got the upper hand over the guys on clay you never lose again and thatís how it looked like. But eventually itís going to get you. Today, which is great for myself and the rest of the guys, I got him. Now it will be interesting going into the French Open to see both reaction."

Federer's third title from his past three appearances in Hamburg (he did not play in 2006) took his winning streak in Germany to 37 matches, which also includes four grass court titles in Halle. He is 9-0 lifetime in finals in Germany. Hamburg now becomes Federer's joint most successful hunting ground along with Halle, Wimbledon and Dubai, tournaments he also has won four times.

"For me itís nice to play well again after last weekís disappointment," added Federer. "I donít think I played bad in the last months, just because I havenít won a title. I was in the finals in Monaco and now I won a clay court tornament again after a couple of years. For me, thatís very good. I played excellent tennis today. I had a bit of a struggle throughout the week, because  I had tough opponents. For my side Iím going to the French Open very good. I have a few days off, and then Iím excited that the French Open is coming around now."

After being broken twice in the first set, Federer conceded just six points on serve in the second set and seven points on serve in the third set as he hit peak form in his last appearance before Roland Garros, where he hopes to complete a career Grand Slam. Federer had gone four tournaments without lifting the trophy - the longest title drought of his 172-week reign as ATP World No. 1.

After a lackluster first set in which he faced break points in his first three services games and lost five consecutive games, Federer changed course and took the attack to his arch rival. The Swiss stepped into the court to respond more aggressively to high topspin groundstrokes directed to his backhand, and clipped a steady stream of crushing forehand winners. He hit 31 winners to Nadal's 20, including six aces, and made fewer unforced errors (31 to 34). He regularly came to net and often had Nadal pinned deep behind the baseline and running side to side.

In a telling statistic that reflected Federer's aggressive approach, only seven points in the final two sets lasted 10 strokes or more.

In the third set Nadal suffered just his third 'bagel' in 134 career clay court matches. (He was bageled by Gaston Gaudio in the 2005 Buenos Aires quarterfinals and by Guillermo Coria in the 2005 Monte-Carlo final - a match Nadal recovered to win.)
Federer has now won 48 ATP titles, six on clay. Federer and Nadal have appeared in the same clay court tournament nine times and this is the first time that Federer has won the title. (Nadal has won seven of those nine tournaments).

"The truth is I had a chance at the 2-1 in the second set, but he played very well," said Nadal. "Maybe I was not the same as always mentally. I feel a little bit tired, true. Physically it was perfect. It was a lot of matches in a row... I congratulate Roger. He was playing very good tennis. Well, I lost against the number one and one of the best in history."

Nadal was attempting to become the first player in history (since 1990) to win all three clay court ATP Masters Series titles in the same year, following earlier victories in Monte-Carlo and Rome. He also was bidding to join Marcelo Rios and Gustavo Kuerten as the only players to win all three clay court ATP Masters Series title throughout their careers.

Nadal now sets his sights on Roland Garros, starting next Sunday, where he is the two-time defending champion.

"I have some days off at home in Mallorca now, that will be important for my preparation for Roland Garros," added Nadal. "Then Iíll be 100% for that tournament. The pressure is always the same."

Federer won his first ATP Masters Series title of the year but 13th of his career, second only to Andre Agassi's record 17 titles. (Nadal was chasing a fourth ATP Masters Series shield of 2007 and the 10th of his career.)

Federer moved into a tie for third for the most ATP Masters Series clay court titles won. Nadal and Thomas Muster head the list with six, followed by Federer, Andrei Medvedev and Gustavo Kuerten with four.

By winning his third title of 2007 (Australian Open, Dubai, Hamburg), Federer improved to 23-4 on the year; Nadal slipped to 36-6.

Nadal suffered just his fourth loss in 25 career finals, with three of those losses coming to Federer ('06 Wimbledon, '05 Miami), slipping to 21-4. (Federer is 48-14.)

Nadal also suffered just the 13th defeat of his career on clay, with his clay record slipping to 121-13. His perfect record in clay finals was broken. He is now 16-1 in career clay finals.

Nadal has ranked No. 2 behind Federer for a record 94 consecutive weeks (since July 25, 2005).

For the first time in the history of Masters Series Hamburg the ATP World No. 1 and No. 2-ranked duo contested the final.