<
>

Nadal defeats Federer in three sets for Hamburg Masters title

HAMBURG, Germany -- Rafael Nadal beat defending champion Roger Federer 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-3 on Sunday to win the Hamburg Masters and add the only major clay-court title missing from his impressive collection.

It was the reverse of last year's final, when Federer won his fourth title in Hamburg and snapped Nadal's 81-match winning streak on clay.

Nadal rallied from big deficits in the first two sets, although he lost the tiebreaker in the second. He led 4-1 in the third and held on to raise his record against the top-ranked player to 8-1 on clay and 10-6 overall.

"All the week has been very special for me," Nadal said.

The second-ranked Spaniard has 26 career titles, 21 of them on clay, including the last three French Opens. Nadal also won in Monte Carlo -- beating Federer in the final -- and Barcelona this year.

"It was a strange match," Nadal said. "Roger made some mistakes in the first set that helped me. ... It was important to win because it was the last big clay-court tournament I never won."

Federer lost his seventh match of the year and has only one title so far, at a relatively minor clay-court tournament in Estoril, Portugal.

The Hamburg Masters is a major warm-up tournament for the French Open, the only Grand Slam that Federer has not won.

"I could have served a little better; it wasn't my best performance, maybe. I have to go for big serves -- he is a good return player," Federer said. "It was a fun match."

Federer went into Sunday's final with a 41-match winning streak in Germany and a 9-0 career record in finals on German soil. His last loss in Germany was in 2003.

Federer has been No. 1 since February 2004, but Nadal is the top player on the slower clay surface. Since April 2005, he has lost only twice in 110 matches on clay -- to Federer last year in the Hamburg final and last week in Rome to Juan Carlos Ferrero, when Nadal was slowed by a painful blister on his foot.

Federer led 5-2 in the first set and wasted two set points before Nadal completed a comeback by winning seven straight games. That gave him the first set and a 1-0 lead in the second.

Federer then won the next four games and went on to lead 5-2, but could not close out the set before the tiebreaker.

Nadal had a three-hour match Saturday in beating Novak Djokovic in three sets to protect his No. 2 ranking, but he appeared fresher in the third set Sunday.

Serving for the match, Nadal won the first three points and then hit a backhand crosscourt winner. He fell to his knees and looked to the sky.

"I am happy that I won and that I beat the No. 1 in the world and the best player of the year [Djokovic], and that should give me some more confidence for the French Open," Nadal said.

Nadal became only the third player to own all three clay-court Masters Series titles, in Rome, Monte Carlo and Hamburg.

"He had a great week and a great clay-court season," said Federer, who finished with 41 unforced errors to Nadal's 28.