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Rafa Races to Fourth Straight Roland Garros Title

Paris, France

Rafael Nadal is just the third player since 1968 to win the Roland Garros title without dropping a set.© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal is just the third player since 1968 to win the Roland Garros title without dropping a set.

ATP World No. 2 Rafael Nadal captured his fourth straight Roland Garros crown on Sunday with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 victory over No. 1 Roger Federer in Paris. The score line reflected the second most one-sided Roland Garros final in the Open Era after the 1977 final, where Guillermo Vilas defeated Brian Gottfried for the loss of just three games.

Nadal becomes just the second player after Swede Bjorn Borg (1978-81) to win four consecutive Roland Garros titles since the event went international in 1925. The achievement also sees him join Federer, Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras as the only players to have won at least four consecutive titles at a Grand Slam in the Open Era.

The 22-year-old Nadal joins Ilie Nastase (1973) and Bjorn Borg (1978, 1980) as just the third player in the Open Era to win the Roland Garros title without dropping a set, and the fifth player to do so at any Grand Slam in the Open Era.

The Spaniard now extends his unbeaten run at Roland Garros to 28-0 and his record in best-of-five set matches on clay to 41-0. He first captured the title on his debut in 2005 (d. Puerta), becoming the first player since Mats Wilander in 1982 to win the event on his first visit. He then won his second and third titles in 2006 and 2007 with victories over Federer.

The Manacor resident has raced through to his fourth title dropping just 41 games. While losing just four games in the final, Nadal was even more devastating in his quarterfinal victory over compatriot Nicolas Almagro, conceding just three games to make it the most one-sided quarterfinal at Roland Garros in the Open Era.

"I think he's played a terrific tournament," said Federer. "He's dominated everybody he played these last two weeks. I didn't come real close today so it's disappointing, because I really thought I was playing well the last few weeks and months."

After contesting closely fought battles in the finals of ATP Masters Series events in Monte Carlo and Hamburg in the lead up to Roland Garros, much was expected when Roger Federer stepped up to face Rafael Nadal in their 17th career meeting. However, in just the second time in the Open Era that the same two players have contested the same Grand Slam final for three consecutive years, the match proved to be the most one-sided encounter between the pair.

Nadal, who for the fourth year had already won three clay court court events prior to arriving in Roland Garros, enjoyed the better start in the match. He broke Federer in the first game courtesy of one of an eventual 49 unforced errors from the Swiss’ racquet. From there, Nadal did not look back and went on to break Federer for a second time with an accurate backhand pass cross court, one of many that would trouble Federer throughout the match. The 26-year-old Federer was unable to claw his way back and surrendered his serve for the third time at 1-5 to concede the set 6-1 as he drifted a forehand volley long.

The second set looked to be going in the same fashion as Nadal capitalized on the Swiss’ many unforced errors to go up an early break. However, Federer immediately hit back, finding some inspiration with an angled backhand to earn himself two break points and he was able to convert as Nadal netted a forehand. With the Parisian crowd urging him on, Federer had a chance to gain a key break through when presented with a break point chance in the seventh game. However a well-worked point from Nadal moved Federer from side-to-side before he placed a drop shot that Federer could only return in the net.

Having secured his own serve, Nadal immediately went after Federer’s. The Swiss No. 1 managed to fend off three break points against him, but on the fourth another backhand pass from Nadal was just out of Federer’s reach and he dropped serve to trail 3-5. Nadal was quick to extend his lead, closing out the set 6-3 as Federer returned serve long.

The third set lasted just 27 minutes as Nadal broke serve three times to secure the match victory after just 1 hr., 48 min., and hand Federer his first bagel set since June 1999, as Federer fired a forehand long prompting muted celebrations from Nadal after the comfortable win.

"I didn't expect a match like this," said Nadal. "But I think I played an almost perfect match. Roger made more mistakes than usual and I played more aggressively than usual."

This is the fewest number of games that Federer has won in 173 Grand Slam matches, his previous lowest was seven games against Andre Agassi (l. 6-1, 6-2, 6-4) in the fourth round at the 2001 US Open. It is also the fewest games he has won in the 372 matches since he has been at No. 1 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings, going back to February 2004.

"I mean, key for me is the way Rafa played," said Federer. "I mean, no doubt he played excellently. He hardly made any unforced errors, and when he's on the attack, he's lethal. To come up with a performance like this under pressure shows what a great champion he is."

Federer, who won his 54th ATP title and first of the year in Estoril in April (d. Davydenko), was bidding to capture the one Grand Slam title to still elude him and earn a career Grand Slam. The last player to win all four Grand Slam titles was American Andre Agassi, who captured Roland Garros in 1999.

Federer is the only the third player in the history of the sport, together with Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver, to reach the final at least three times in all four Grand Slam tournaments.

The Swiss, who has amassed 12 Grand Slam titles with five Wimbledons, four US Opens and three titles at the Australian Open, was looking to move to within one title of leveling Pete Sampras’ record haul of 14 titles. Federer now slips to a 12-3 record in Grand Slam finals, all three of his losses coming to Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros and falls just one match win short of claiming his 150th Grand Slam victory (149-23).

The Swiss becomes just the second player after Jaroslav Drobny since 1925 to lose his first three Roland Garros finals. Having lost the finals in 1946, 1948 and 1950, Drobny did go on to capture two Roland Garros titles in 1951 and 1952.

Nadal now collects €1,000,000 in prize money and 1000 South African Airways ATP Ranking points, while Federer receives €530,000 and 700 points.


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