Ahead of this year's Madrid Open at Caja Magica, the five-time champion Rafael Nadal spoke about his favorite memories from the home event where he has been playing since 2003! Inevitably, Nadal had to bring the 2009 campaign into that story, facing Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer within 24 hours and failing to conquer the first clay edition of the Madrid Open.
Nadal needed four hours and three minutes to beat Djokovic 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 in the semis, fending off three match points and setting the title clash against Federer. Rafa gave his best to recover in such a short time, but Federer took advantage of the circumstances to notch a 6-4, 6-4 triumph in an hour and 26 minutes and become the first Madrid champion at Caja Magica on the red surface.
It was a significant victory for the Swiss, who started losing ground in the previous months after losing to his biggest rivals at the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami and Rome. Roger tried to keep the points as short as possible on the fast Madrid clay and avoid long rallies and the pressure on his backhand.
He won just five points more than Rafa, repelling all four break chances and seizing both opportunities earned on the return to emerge as a champion, toppling Nadal for the second time in 11 matches on clay. Also, the Swiss finally broke Nadal's streak of five consecutive wins, all in notable finals, including Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Australian Open.
It was only the fifth loss for Rafa on clay in the last 155 matches and the first after 33 straight victories, losing to Roger for the fifth time in 16 ATP finals they had played up to that point.
Rafael Nadal lost the Madrid Open final to Roger Federer in 2009.
That semi-final clash against Novak took a lot from Nadal, but he was there to fight for every point, creating a break chance in the second game that Roger saved with a service winner to avoid an early setback.
The Spaniard was the better player on the court in the first six games, holding with ease and creating another break chance at 3-2 that could have sent him in front. Federer fended it off with a powerful forehand attack and locked the result at 3-3 with two winners.
The Swiss made a massive step towards the opening set at 4-4, converting a break chance when Rafa netted a backhand to serve for the set. Carried by this momentum, Federer held at love with a service winner to clinch the opener 6-4, hoping for more of the same in the rest of the encounter.
Nadal kept fighting and held at love twice at the start of the second set, with a completely different outcome waiting at 2-2. Roger created a break opportunity with a backhand drop shot winner, and Rafa sealed his fate when his forehand landed long.
Federer cemented the break with a service winner and opened a 5-3 gap with another unreturned serve in game eight to move closer to the finish line. Nadal reduced the deficit after deuce, and Roger served for the title at 5-4.
The persistent Spaniard earned two break chances that could have changed the match entirely had he converted any of those. It was not to be for him, though, wasting the first with an open backhand that landed wide and the second when Roger forced an error.
Rafa saved the first match point, but Roger blasted an ace on the second to bring the encounter home and lift the 15th Masters 1000 trophy, the first since Cincinnati 2007 and the fifth on clay.