ROLAND GARROS 2006
June 2006: Denies Rival Federer
by Paul Macpherson|
Nadal dropped the first five games of the match but from that point on did not surrender his serve until he served for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set. Although Federer broke serve to take the match into a tie-break, Nadal held his nerve to record his sixth victory in seven career meetings against Federer.
"I definitely felt that second set was a big turning point,” said Federer. “If just there I can keep up with him and then put him really under big pressure, maybe lead two sets to love, then obviously it's very different. But I think just giving away the second set like this, I think that was maybe the key. But, look, I mean, he did a good job to come back and an incredible effort to do it all over again. So, no, he's got my respect for sure.
"That I make mistakes on my backhand side, with the aggression of Nadal, that's normal. I saw I did a few too many on that side. I wasn't as consistent today unfortunately like I was in Rome or maybe even in Monaco.
Federer was bidding to become just the sixth man in history to win all four Grand Slam titles and just the third man to win four consecutive Grand Slam titles.
Nadal improved his perfect Roland Garros record to 14-0, his clay court winning streak to 60 matches and also moved his career record on clay to 100-12. "I was very lucky because 60 matches in a row means that you are a bit lucky, because suddenly you can be injured and lose a match,” said Nadal. “It also inspires me that everything went well. If you fight all the time, if you have a good mental attitude, it works."
Nadal, who also defeated Federer in the finals of Masters Series Monte-Carlo and Rome earlier in the clay court season, handed Federer his first defeat in eight Grand Slam finals. He also snapped Federer's 27-match winning streak at Grand Slam level.
“You can't compare this victory with last year's,” said Nadal. “Everything is different. I think this victory is more important for me because I was injured in the beginning of the season. I wasn't sure I could come back to my best level, and I see I'm still No. 2. Winning here is a very special feeling. It's an excellent emotion.
"It's true that if Federer loses no matches whatsoever, I will not be No. 1. I have to improve. But with the points that I'm winning, if Federer hadn't been there, I would have been No. 1. But we are at a time when the No. 1 is the most consistent player of the whole tennis history, so you have to take this into account.
“Secondly, I believe that he's at the top of the game for two years. He's playing his best tennis. He will not be able to play that way all his life. It's true for me also, but I'm a bit younger. I can prepare myself well, and maybe when he will come down a little bit, then I might be able to have the sufficient level to become No. 1."
Federer was plagued by unforced backhand errors during the match. He made a total of 51 unforced errors during the match (compared to Nadal's 28). He also was unable to put pressure on Nadal's serve, with the Spaniard winning 65 percent of points on his second serve.
"I didn't play as good maybe as the last few matches,” admitted Federer. “But his level was, once again, solid after the tough start in the first set. But he makes it tough, and I guess in the end he deserves to win. So, no, it was a good tournament after all for me. I mean, first time in the finals. You got to also see the positive and that's what I usually always do, even though maybe at the end of my career I miss this moment, to have it again, to win the French Open right away today. But it didn't happen, so I've got to create this opportunity once again."
Both players will now make the transition to grass next week at ATP tournaments. Federer will be top seed at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle and Nadal is the top seed at the Stella Artois Championships in London (Queen's).