Madrid Flashback: Roger Federer wins title over tired Rafael Nadal



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Madrid Flashback: Roger Federer wins title over tired Rafael Nadal

Played on an indoor hard court between 2002 and 2008, Madrid Open moved to Caja Magica and clay in 2009, gathering the world's leading players in a battle for the trophy. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic reached the semi-final, and we saw that fantastic encounter between Rafa and Novak.

The Spaniard prevailed 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 in four hours and three minutes after saving three match points to set up the title clash against Roger, who took down Juan Martin del Potro in straight sets. Nadal gave his best to recover in such a short time and stand as a competitive rival.

Still, 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 being defeated by his biggest rivals at the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami and Rome.

As we all know, he would carry his Madrid form to Roland Garros, where he beat Robin Soderling in the final to lift his first and only Major trophy in Paris and achieve a Career Grand Slam. Roger's plan was simple, as he tried to keep the points as short as possible on the fast Madrid clay and avoid long rallies and the pressure on his backhand.

The Swiss wished to avoid the unforced errors that usually plague his game against Nadal on the slowest surface. Roger 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 and topple Nadal for the second time in 11 matches on clay.

Roger Federer claimed the Madrid Open title in 2009 at Caja Magica.

The Swiss broke Nadal's streak of five wins in a row, all in notable finals, including Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Australian Open. It was only the fifth defeat 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.

That semi-final clash against Novak took a lot from Rafa, but he was there to fight for every point. He created a break chance in the second game, and Roger saved it with a service winner to avoid an early setback. The Spaniard was a better player 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 leveled the score at 3-3 with two winners. Roger stayed in touch until game nine, when he made a massive step towards the opener. Before that game, Nadal had lost only four points in four service games.

Still, Roger found a way to create a break chance with a forehand winner and converted it when Rafa netted a backhand to move 5-4 up and serve for the set. Carried by this momentum, Federer held at love with a service winner to clinch the opening set 6-4 after 40 minutes, hoping for more of the same in the rest of the encounter.

The Swiss was a more aggressive player, defending the second serve efficiently and making the difference with his only break chance. 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 Nadal 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 that pushed him closer to the finish line.

Nadal reduced the deficit after deuce in game nine, and Roger served for the title in the next one. The persistent Spaniard gained 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. The Swiss earned a match point with an ace down the T line, and the Spaniard saved it to prolong the clash.

Roger blasted an ace on his second match point to bring the encounter home and lift the 15th Masters 1000 trophy, the first since Cincinnati 2007 and the fifth on clay after taking four in Hamburg.