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Nadal Marks Another Milestone in Madrid

Incredibly, an entire year had gone by since Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal clashed in a final.  At the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open, these two rectified that by battling for yet another Masters 1000 shield.  Nadal, the 2009 finalist, vanquished Federer, the defending champion, 6-4, 7-6 to claim an unprecedented 18th Masters shield surpassing Andre Agassi and a historic third straight Masters trophy.

Since prevailing at the Australian Open, Federer has been in a slump with early exits in Indian Wells, Miami and Rome.  The top seed in Estoril last week, Federer was stopped in the semifinals by the defending champion Albert Montanes.  Conversely, this season, Nadal has been again the “it guy” on clay with titles in Rome and Monte-Carlo.  By avenging his loss to Ernests Gulbis in Rome and beating David Ferrer, the hottest player on clay besides Nadal, in the semifinals, Federer seemed to be finding his form.  Still, Nadal would be the most intricate puzzle to solve.

Following a love opening game, with a forehand up the line error by Nadal, Federer had break point.  But, by provoking mistakes from Roger, Rafael held for 1 all.  Quickly, Nadal turned the tables and as a result of errors captured a break for 2-1.  However, as a backhand crosscourt by Nadal sailed long, Federer had triple break point.  Roger converted when Rafael’s forehand missed its mark.  With the players at 3 all, three successive miscues by Federer gave Nadal triple break point.  An unreturnable serve and two forehand winners allowed Federer to get to deuce.  Yet, after Federer failed to capitalize on a game point, Nadal connected on a backhand crosscourt pass for a winner and his fifth break chance.  When Federer netted the backhand, Nadal took a 4-3 lead.  Then, despite resistance from Federer, Nadal consolidated for 5-3.  Subsequent to a love hold, Federer hit a couple of great forehands and with a Nadal double fault obtained double break point.  Promptly, with back to back errors by his rival, Nadal got to deuce. Still, Federer manufactured two more break points,  But, with the return finding the bottom of the net on the next point, Federer could not get over the hump.  Finally, with a forehand crosscourt pass for a winner, Nadal punctuated the first set.

After Federer flubbed a volley on game point, Nadal went on to break to start the second set.  However, by baiting Nadal into a few mistakes, Federer arrived at double break point.  With a backhand crosscourt winner, Federer leveled the set.  Then, at 2 all, leading 40-15, Federer found himself at deuce.  By passing Federer two consecutive times, Nadal broke for 3-2.  After Nadal consolidated with an easy hold, Federer had a love service game to maintain a one game difference.  Taking the dropshot out of his arsenal for the first time, Federer fabricated triple break point.  When Nadal misfired with the forehand, the set was equalized at 4.  Then, with back to back aces, Federer crept ahead 5-4.  As neither guy was able to gain a break point, the decider was the tiebreaker.

An error by Nadal gifted Federer a 2-0 mini-break edge.  But, with Federer mishandling a volley, the tiebreaker was at 2 all.  Later, with a dropshot winner, Federer again had a 4-2 advantage.  Next, Federer netted another makeable dropshot; afterwards, his play veered south.  By misfiring on the following two strokes, Federer gave Nadal a mini-break for 5-4.  Then, with Roger dumping a backhand into the net, Nadal had his first championship point.  With a bold forehand up the line winner, Federer salvaged the initial match point.  However, off a great serve by Federer, Nadal’s return took an unforeseen turn causing the ball to travel over Federer’s racket.  With that bizarre hometown bounce, Nadal sealed the victory.

Nadal now stands in the fifth position, tied with Ilie Nastase and Ivan Lendl, with 28 clay court titles.  Nadal’s win in the semifinals over Nicolas Almagro permitted him to reclaim the number two ranking. Considering how dominant Rafael has been on the red stuff, it’s difficult to envisage a Robin Soderling emerging in Paris to upset the ‘pomme’ cart.

Earlier today, Mike and Bob Bryan produced fireworks of their own in the Spanish capital.  The two defeated the number one team and defending champions, Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic, 6-3,6-4 to collect their 61st career title.  With that conquest, the Bryan brothers equalized the record set by Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde.  In addition, with this triumph, their 15th Masters shield, Mike and Bob displace Nestor and Zimonjic at number one.

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