Nadal's clay win streak comes to end at 81

Updated: May 20, 2007, 1:35 PM ET
Associated Press

HAMBURG, Germany -- Roger Federer had the perfect response to questions about his status as the world's top-ranked player -- he ended Rafael Nadal's 81-match winning streak on clay.

Roger Federer
AP Photo/Fabian BimmerFederer still trails Nadal 4-7 in their overall head-to-head matches.

Federer beat Nadal 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 in the final of the Hamburg Masters on Sunday to win his first clay-court title in two years and snap out of a slump during which he failed to win a title in four events. It was his worst run since he became No. 1 in February 2004.

Federer also gave himself a major boost one week before the French Open, the second major of the year and the only Grand Slam he hasn't won.

"It was an incredible performance from my side," Federer said. "I had a great day, it's nice to be playing well again. It's my first title on clay in a couple of years."

Nadal, who had never lost to Federer on clay in five previous matches and leads the overall series 7-4, was impressed.

"He is unbelievable," the Spaniard said.

Nadal, ranked No. 2 in the world behind Federer, had been unbeaten on the surface since April 2005, a run that included 13 titles.

Men's Clay-Court Win Streaks*
81 Rafael Nadal April 2005-May 2007
53 Guillermo Vilas May-Sept. 1977
46 Bjorn Borg Oct. 1977- May 1979
40 Thomas Muster Feb.-June 1995
38 Thomas Muster Aug. 1995- April 1996
38 Ilie Nastase May-Oct. 1973
*Open era (since 1968)

"If I have to lose against anyone, then he is the man," Nadal said. "I am not sad to lose to the best in the world."

Federer said he finally found the formula to play against Nadal on clay.

"I was dictating play," Federer said. "His streak was phenomenal -- 81 matches in a row on clay is fantastic."

At the start of the match, it didn't look like Nadal's streak would be ending.

He raced through the first set, with Federer making many errors and having trouble with his serve.

But the match turned completely when Federer broke serve for a 2-1 lead in the second, after fighting off two break points.

"I returned better and I served better and I was dictating play," Federer said.

Federer vs. Nadal:
Wins By Court Surface
Federer
Nadal
Clay
1
5
Hard
2
2
Grass
1
0

Nadal, on the other hand, began to struggle with his shots and even his fierce forehand frequently began to go long or wide. The Spaniard, who won the Rome Masters series one week ago, appeared to be running out of steam.

Federer took advantage and won a set at love against Nadal for the second time since beating him in the final at Wimbledon last year.

"He can come back any time and I was making more mistakes than usual," Nadal said. "I lost a little bit of power after the first set and maybe I was mentally a little bit tired."

"Now I have to start another [streak]."

Federer has won in Hamburg in four of his last five visits and claimed his third title of the year after the Australian Open and Dubai.

"It's great to play here again and win again. I've fallen in love with this tournament," he said.

Federer earned $458,218 for his win, Nadal half of that.

Federer was playing his first tournament since splitting with coach Tony Roche. He has said he will go to the French Open and Wimbledon without a new coach.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press