Nadal beats Federer in third-set tiebreak

Updated: May 9, 2007, 11:22 AM ET
Associated Press

PALMA DE MALLORCA, Balearic Islands -- The King of Clay ruled in this oddest of matches between the two best players in tennis.

Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (10) in an exhibition Wednesday on a half-grass, half-clay court when the top-ranked Swiss failed to reach a forehand that took a funny bounce across the green side.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer
AP Photo/Manu FernandezThe grounds crew had to rip up and re-lay the grass side of the court, which required $1.63 million and 19 days to prepare, Wednesday morning.

"We're used to playing long, hard games with a lot of tension involved," Federer said. "So it's fun to play on this half-grass, half-clay surface."

Nadal came into the match with a record 72 straight wins on clay. Federer hasn't lost on grass in four years -- a 48-match run that includes four straight Wimbledon titles.

"It was a long match, with many changes of pace and with little time to adapt," Nadal said. "My feet are suffering as a price of having to adapt to the grass."

Federer was leading 4-1 in the tiebreaker before Nadal rallied. After the Spaniard double-faulted while ahead 6-5, the players traded match points. Nadal then hit three of the final four winners from the clay side before a sellout crowd of about 7,000.

The grass caused some tricky bounces, especially as the match progressed. But both players showed little difficulty in switching surfaces, as they changed shoes at changeovers.

The grounds crew on Wednesday morning had to rip up and relay the grass court, which cost $1.63 million and had taken 19 days to prepare.

After the players split the first two sets, the jokes dissipated and both players went for the win. Nadal displayed his trademark fist-pump for the first time after Federer's forehand landed long on the clay for a 4-3 lead. Both players held serve to force the tiebreaker, with Nadal dominating the baseline and Federer the net.

Nadal, who has won three straight titles at Monte Carlo and Barcelona, held a 5-0 lead over Federer on clay. Federer is 1-0 against the Spaniard on grass. Nadal leads the series with Federer 7-3.

Nadal, serving from clay to start, won the first point of the match after a rally of groundstrokes ended with Federer hitting his forehand into the net. Another Federer shot into the net, a backhand, gave the Spaniard the first game.

Nadal broke first in the fourth game on grass then watched Federer net a forehand as the Spaniard held from the clay for a 4-1 lead. Federer rallied to 4-4 after a break of his own before Nadal lashed a crosscourt forehand winner for a 5-4 advantage before breaking Federer again in the 12th game for the set.

Federer bounced back in the second, breaking Nadal on his second try from the green side. Federer's one break while returning on grass was enough for the 10-time Grand Slam champion to prevail in the second.

Both players were eager to do this again next year.

"It was a fun way to pass 2½ hours," Nadal said.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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