I said going in that it was going to be tough to draw much value out of the Hamburg winner between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. And after Nadal’s topsy-turvy 7-5, 6-7, 6-3 win over Federer the result hasn’t changed my mind much.
What a strange match though.
Federer raced out to what looked be an insurmountable 5-1 lead with sets points in the first set. Down 2-5 Nadal called for the trainer to get treatment on some discomfort in the back of his right leg. And it looked as though the match might very well end right there.
But Nadal forged onward and Federer immediately did his best Acapulco cliff dive routine losing the next six games and with it the first set.
In the second set Rafa had the early break, but Federer roared back building a 5-2 lead. But yet again the World No. 1 was unable to close out the set (off memory I think Roger was up a break in both sets in Monte Carlo, eventually losing them both. Theme warning?).
Rafa wrapped up the third set pretty comfortably and in doing so the 21-year-old earned his first career Tennis Masters Hamburg title. Nadal has now won a ridiculous 108 of his last 110 clay matches and looks more than primed for a another French Open title run.
Credit to Rafa, though, had he retired I think few would have blamed him with what’s at stake on the horizon, but he didn’t and look how nicely it paid off. That’s why the guy is the best fighter on the tour.
For Federer, who owned a remarkable 41-match win streak in a Germany, it’s back to the drawing board if he’s going to win the French Open in two weeks. This was his court, his conditions and playing in a country where he excels, but it still wasn’t enough to overcome Rafa, and that’s bad news for Roger because the way it looks at the moment the road to the Roland Garros title is going to go through Rafael Nadal. And winning three sets against a healthy Rafa in a place where he has never lost looks like mission impossible right now.
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