Tennis: Federer beats Nadal for Madrid title
By PAUL LOGOTHETIS
AP Sports Writer
MADRID — Roger Federer beat top-ranked Rafael Nadal in a final for the first time in two years on Sunday, claiming the Madrid Open 6-4, 6-4 for his first title of the season.
It was only the second victory Federer has on clay against his top rival, with the other coming at the Hamburg final two years ago. The win also ended Federer’s five-match losing streak to Nadal.
“He was simply better than me,” Nadal said.
Federer ended Nadal’s 33-match clay winning streak going into the French Open, where the Spaniard is going for a fifth straight title.
Earlier, top-ranked Dinara Safina of Russia won her second straight title on clay by beating Danish teenager Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-4 in the women’s final.
Federer and Nadal joked after receiving their trophies in a scene that contrasted with the one in February when Federer was in tears after losing to Nadal in the Australian Open final.
Only Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe have met in more finals — 20 — as the pair played for a 16th time with Nadal having earned 11 titles. Nadal leads the overall series 13-7.
Federer, who is also the only top-10 player to have ever beaten Nadal on clay, saved two Nadal break chances before converting his first try in the ninth game.
Federer slapped a forehand winner down the near line to set up the point and converted when Nadal weakly backhanded into net. Federer served out to love to take the opening set.
Nadal’s grueling semifinal win against Novak Djokovic took its toll as he failed to reach many balls he would normally get.
“It doesn’t help to play four hours yesterday,” said Nadal, who also pointed to his troubles with Madrid’s faster pace brought on by higher altitude.
Federer applied a soft drop to set up a break chance in the fifth game of the second set and took a 3-2 lead after Nadal hit long.
Nadal rallied the 12,500 spectators at the “Magic Box” after setting up a break chance in the final game, but the Spaniard slapped his cross-court backhand wide.
Federer netted his first match point but replied with his 25th winner to close it out. Nadal, who has won five titles this season, had only 12 winners in the rivals’ first match in front of Nadal’s biggest supporters.
It was Federer’s first Masters title since Cincinnati in 2007.
Safina overpowered her 18-year-old opponent with 24 winners and three break points for her 11th career title.
“Since I became No. 1 I’m playing better and better,” the 23-year-old said.
Wozniacki, facing a top-ranked player for the first time, will become the first Dane to crack the top-10 in next week’s rankings after reaching her third final of the season.
Safina is 14-1 on clay this season and will go into Roland Garros buoyed by her recent success on the surface after finishing runner-up at the Australian Open and Stuttgart earlier this year.
“I was feeling very comfortable from the start of the match and I was trying to be as aggressive as I could,” said Safina, who improved to 14-1 on clay this season despite being bothered by a slight knee problem. “But even in the key moments I was very strong.”