Nadal's clay win streak comes to end at 81

5/20/2007 - Tennis

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.

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

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

"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.

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

"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

"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.