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Nadal hands Federer first loss of year in Dubai

3/4/2006 - Tennis

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Rafael Nadal, playing only
his second tournament in four months, beat top-ranked Roger Federer
2-6, 6-4, 6-4 Saturday in the final of the Dubai Open.

Federer had won this event the past three years. The Swiss star
had captured his two other tournaments in 2006 -- the Australian
Open and Doha Open.

Nadal, seeded and ranked second, ended Federer's 56-match
hardcourt winning streak. The Spaniard won in less than two hours.

"I think it is unbelievable to win against the best player in
the world -- perhaps the best in history of the game," said Nadal,
who broke down in tears on court. "It was also special because I
was out of the game for more than three months. I cried because I
was happy."

The 19-year-old Nadal, the 2005 French Open champion, recently
recovered from a foot injury that kept him out of most tournaments
the last four months. He made his return in Marseille two weeks
ago, where he reached the semifinals.

Completely outplayed in the first set, Nadal changed his tactics
in the second set.

"He was playing too well in the first set, very aggressive. I
could do nothing," Nadal said. "In the second, I told myself just
to hold my serve, and try and be aggressive on his serve and
hopefully get a break.

"I also applied more topspin on my forehand. Once I won the
second game after being 0-30 down, my confidence also went up."

Federer said he was happy with his game despite his loss.

"I think Nadal deserved to win because he played so consistent.
I started off really well, but sprayed a little toward the end,"
Federer said. "But I am very happy with my game right now. And
hopefully, I will pay him back soon."

Federer was sublime in the opening set, winning 6-2 in 28
minutes. Federer served well and went to the net successfully on
several occasions.

Then Nadal advanced to the net in the second set, and his
passing shots actually got by Federer.

Nadal made the all-important break in the ninth game, passing an
advancing Federer, who gave the Spaniard three break points with
two volleys in the net.

In the third set, Nadal broke Federer in the first game,
capitalizing with a backhand crosscourt shot on a deep volley.

Federer evened it in the fourth with a forehand down the line on
the run. Nadal converted a break point in the ninth game, when
Federer hit his forehand volley wide. Nadal then served for the
match.

In the doubles final, second-seeded Paul Hanley of Australia and
Kevin Ullyett of Zimbabwe beat the top-seeded Mark Knowles of the
Bahamas and Daniel Nestor of Canada 1-6, 6-2, 10-1 in the
tiebreaker.