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Nadal Wins Hamburg Battle for 26th Career ATP Title

Hamburg, Germany

Rafael Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal Celebrates

Second-seeded Spaniard Rafael Nadal captured his third ATP clay-court title of the year Sunday with a 7-5 ,6-7(3), 6-3 victory over four-time champion and ATP World No. 1 Roger Federer of Switzerland in the final of Masters Series Hamburg presented by EON Hanse.

Nadal becomes only the third player since 1990 to win the three ATP Masters Series titles on clay – Monte Carlo, Rome and Hamburg in his career. The only players to accomplish the feat are former World No. 1s Gustavo Kuerten and Marcelo Rios.

"[It] was an important win for me," said Nadal. "I was focused all the time. Roger had some important mistakes in the first set that helped me a lot. I started the match playing bad. It was tough for me, after yesterday [against Djokovic] it was tough in the beginning. I felt something in the leg, a little bit pain. It was difficult for me to concentrate. But later I felt a little bit better."

Federer started the match strongly with breaks of serve in the second and sixth games for a 5-1 lead, but Nadal clawed his way back by winning six successive games to clinch the opening set 7-5 in 61 minutes.

The pair exchanged breaks of serve early in the second set, but it was Federer who moved into a 5-2 lead before Nadal broke back in the ninth game. The writing appeared on the wall for Federer, but the Swiss regained his composure and calmly sealed the tie-break to take the pair’s 16th career meeting to a deciding set.

Nadal secured the crucial break in the fourth game of the third set and failed to convert two further opportunities for a 5-1 lead. Federer kept battling but Nadal fought off one break point in the seventh game and eventually wrapped up victory in two hours and 53 minutes.

"I was a little bit tired," explained Nadal. "But it's not only the body. Mentally it is tough, too, because it was a lot of tensions yesterday, a lot of pressure. Today it was tough when I was coming on court. But later everything changed. For sure it�s important to beat the no. 1 and the best of this year. With this result, I�m already inside of the Masters Cup. That's my first goal. I am happy for that. I continue to be the No. 2, but closer to the No. 1."

It was the 12th time the pair had met in a final. Nadal also beat Federer for the third successive year in the ATP Masters Series Monte-Carlo final last month.

 Federer drops to 9-1 lifetime in German finals and saw his 41-match winning streak on German soil come to an end. Federer has won titles in Hamburg in 2004-05 and ’07 and in Halle from 2003-06. He also won in Hamburg in 2002 and Munich in 2003 (not part of the streak). His last loss on German soil came to Mark Philippoussis in the third round in Hamburg in 2003.

"I could have maybe served a little bit better," explained Federer. "When I served for the set, the second time where he broke me at 5-1, but I thought, all in all it was all right. It wasn�t my best performance, if you get broken so many times there is always something you are a little bit unhappy about. But I think I am finding the right type of play from the baseline."

World No. 2 Nadal, who saw his record 81-match winning streak come to an end against Federer in the 2007 Hamburg final, has now beaten the Swiss 10 times (8-1 on clay) in his career.

Nadal improved to an ATP-best 37-7 record on the season with his 26th career ATP title. In 2008 he has also won his fourth successive Barcelona title last month (d. Ferrer) and finished runner-up at Chennai (l. to Youzhny) and ATP Masters Series Miami (l. to Davydenko).

He has a 21-1 record in clay-court finals. Since the beginning of Monte Carlo in April 2005, the 21-year-old Majorcan has won 108 of 110 matches on clay.

 Nadal has now won 11 career ATP Masters Series shields in 15 finals, which included 2005-08 Monte Carlo, 2005-07 Rome, 2005 Montreal, 2005 Madrid and 2007 Indian Wells; his four runner-up showings came in ‘05 Miami (l. to Federer in five sets), ’07 Hamburg year (l. to Federer), ’07 Paris (l. to Nalbandian) and Miami this year (l. to Davydenko).

The Spaniard improves to 39-19 (9-3 this season) against Top 10 players, including 26-3 on clay. On Saturday, he beat Novak Djokovic in the semifinals to confirm his position as No. 2 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings.

Federer falls to 26-7 on the season, which includes one ATP title in Estoril (d. Davydenko). He had been attempting to capture his 15th career ATP Masters Series shield and the 55th title of his career.

The 26-year-old posted his 100th career victory against a Top 10 opponent (100-42) with semifinal victory over No. 3 Djokovic in Monte Carlo and has a 16-12 mark on clay.

"I wish I could have won today, then I would have an even better feeling," said Federer. "The way the match went today I can also say I feel well, the three hours wasn't a problem whatsoever. From a physical standpoint that is a good thing for me. I just take two days off and I will be in Paris practicing. It's going to be fun next week and then I will hopefully be ready for the tournament."

Nadal receives €360,000 and 500 South African Airways ATP Rankings points while Federer collects €180,000 and 350 points.

 

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