Nadal continues dominance of Federer on clay

MONTE CARLO, Monaco -- Roger Federer seems no closer to
figuring out how to beat Rafael Nadal on clay.

The top-ranked Swiss star lost his fifth straight match to Nadal
on clay Sunday at the Monte Carlo Masters, 6-4, 6-4, and the
second-ranked Spaniard extended his winning streak on the surface
to 67 matches.

"I lost four times against Rafa," Federer said. "I'd rather
have that than lose against four different guys."

Nadal won the title at Monte Carlo for the third straight year.
The two-time defending French Open champion is 14-0 in clay-court
finals, and 4-0 against Federer.

But despite his latest setback, the 10-time Grand Slam champion
believes he's still on the right track to win the only major that
eludes him.

Federer has four Wimbledon titles, and three at both the U.S.
and Australian opens, but still needs the French Open to complete
the sweep.

"I feel this match gave me some information," Federer said.
"I'm absolutely in the mix with him on clay. I feel like I'm in
good shape for the rest of clay-court season, and it's going to
come down to the French Open to see who wins."

Nadal beat Federer on clay last year in the finals of the Monte
Carlo Masters, the Rome Masters and the French Open. He also beat
Federer in the 2005 Monte Carlo semifinals.

Only at the Rome Masters did Nadal have to save a match point
against Federer on clay.

"Today's match was very close. For sure, it's a surprise to win
in two sets against the No. 1," Nadal said. "I was confident
because I was playing my best tennis this week."

Nadal is the first player to win three straight Monte Carlo
titles since Ilie Nastase (1971-73), and only the fourth in the
Open era to have won it three times. Bjorn Borg and Thomas Muster
also did so were three-time winners.

Federer, who won his previous two meetings with Nadal on other
surfaces, missed two chances to break Nadal in the eighth game of
the first set. Nadal saved the first with a strong serve, and the
second when Federer's forehand went wide.

"I should have used my chances when I had them early on,"
Federer said. "Unfortunately, it turned around with a few

It was Federer's third loss of the season -- with the other two
coming against Guillermo Canas last month at Indian Wells and Key

Federer made 38 unforced errors -- half on his forehand -- and
Nadal won on his second match point when Federer sent a backhand

"I will try again to beat him in Rome, Hamburg and here in
Monte Carlo next year," Federer said.

Federer could not explain why his forehand -- normally his most
potent weapon -- was well below its usual standard.

"It rarely happens to me," Federer said. "It's the best shot
of my game."

After failing to convert those two early break points against
Nadal, Federer trailed 40-0 in the ninth game. He saved one break
point, but then a long forehand gave Nadal a 5-4 lead, and he
served out the set.

Nadal broke Federer again in the third game of the second set,
when Federer's defensive volley was too short and the Spaniard
sprinted forward to pass him down the line.

"Let's not forget he's an excellent player on clay," Federer
said. "He's born on this surface. It's his No. 1 surface, and
still I come so close ... four finals in a row on clay. I feel like
I'm in good shape."