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Nadal Achieves Historic Triumph With Victory Over Federer

Madrid, Spain

Rafael Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal shows his delight at winning his 18th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy.

At the age of 23 years and 11 months, Rafael Nadal won a record-breaking 18th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title as he defeated rival Roger Federer 6-4, 7-6(5), in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 final Sunday at the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open.

Watched by Queen Sofia of Spain, Nadal also became the first player to win all three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay court tournaments in the same year, having triumphed at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters (d. Verdasco) and the Internazionali BNL d’Italia (d. Ferrer) last month.

"Well to be the first player to [win all three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournaments] is unbelievable," said Nadal. "I would never have dreamed that I would be able to do so. I’m very happy to have won here and it is especially important to have won in Madrid.

"Beating Roger is always a special occasion. It’s always a very difficult match. And of course winning at home is very special against anyone. So beating him at home is amazing; it’s a dream for me. For me it’s a dream to have won the three [tournaments] before Roland Garros. I want to enjoy that now and we’ll see what happens in two weeks."

As champion, the second-seeded Nadal received 1000 South African Airways 2010 ATP Ranking points and was already assured of returning to the No. 2 ranking by reaching the final in Madrid. The Top 8 players at the end of the season will qualify for the prestigious Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 21-28 November.

Victory for Nadal avenged the defeat he suffered to Federer in the Madrid final last year, the first year the event was played on clay at the Caja Magica in the Spanish capital. The Spaniard improved to a 28-2 mark in tour-level clay-court finals, with his two defeats both coming to Federer; he also lost to the Swiss in the 2007 Hamburg title match.

With 28 tour-level clay-court titles, Nadal moved into a tie for fifth place with Ivan Lendl and Ilie Nastase in the Open Era clay-court title leaders list. Guillermo Vilas holds the record with 45 titles.

In their first clash for a year, Nadal and Federer, who had both come through three-set tussles in the semi-finals, struggled to find their form in the opening exchanges of their 21st meeting. Breaks were exchanged in the third and fourth games before Nadal broke decisively in the seventh game as Federer paid the price for a game littered with unforced errors. The second-seeded Nadal then saved four break points as he served out the set, finishing with a hooked forehand passing shot past the stranded Federer.

With a one-set advantage, Nadal looked to have taken a firm grip on the match as he broke Federer in the opening game of the second set, wearing the Swiss down with his relentless attack that forced errors from the World No. 1’s racquet.

Nadal was unable to shut out Federer out. The determined Swiss immediately levelled and when Nadal again broke to lead 3-2, Federer once again pegged him back with a delightful mix of rifling backhands and forehand drop shots.

In the subsequent tie-break, Federer twice squandered a mini-break lead and found himself two match points down as his backhand broke down under relentless pressure from Nadal. The Swiss was able to save the first with a courageous deep forehand into the corner, but could not deny Nadal on the second as he miss-fired to hand the Mallorcan victory after two hours and 10 minutes.

"Neither of us played a perfect match, we both made mistakes," reflected Nadal. "At times we did play well but I think we know each other so much that we are only focusing on how to make each other play worse. I go for his backhand and that makes the match more strategic and it's been quite an exciting match. It was a very exciting match, a very level match, as is usually the case, and playing against Roger is a very special experience and quite an honour.”

Nadal lifted the trophy in Madrid for the second time, having previously triumphed in a fifth-set tie-break against Ivan Ljubicic on indoor hard court in 2005. Federer is also a two-time winner in Madrid, lifting the trophy in 2006 (d. Gonzalez) and 2009.

The 28-year-old Federer was looking to draw level with Nadal and Andre Agassi by winning a 17th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title. He was also bidding to capture his first title since clinching his 16th Grand Slam crown at the Australian Open (d. Murray) at the start of the year.

The right-hander slipped to a 19-6 record on the season and to a 62-25 mark in tour-level finals. He will hope to rejoin the winners’ circle by defending his title at Roland Garros, which begins in one week’s time in Paris.

"Considering where I was last week (when he lost to Albert Montanes in the Estoril semi-finals) this has been a major improvement for me," said Federer. "The fact is I hardly ever play a lefty on clay and nobody as tough as Rafa. So it’s obviously not easy to make that transition and I thought I did it very well today.

"He came in with tons of confidence having done so well on clay this season, I knew it was going to be tough; but I really believed in my chance. I was maybe a couple points away here and there, but just got broken one too many times today. But I’m pretty happy with the way I played. I’ve played great this week so I definitely come out of this tournament with tons of confidence."

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