In 2009, the Madrid Masters 1000 event switched from October to May and from indoor hard surface to clay, gathering the world's leading players at Caja Magica. In the first edition, Roger Federer defeated Rafael Nadal in the title match, with the Spaniard serving revenge a year later to lift the trophy in front of the home fans.
In 2011, Roger and Rafa met in the semi-final, battling to determine who would face the world's leading player Novak Djokovic. After two hours and 36 minutes, Nadal prevailed 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 for the third straight Madrid final, bouncing back after a tight opener and leaving Roger behind with a strong pace in sets two and three.
It was their 24th meeting on the Tour and the 16th triumph for the Spaniard, who conquered 11 of 13 encounters on clay versus the Swiss. Landing 81% of the first serve in, Nadal fended off nine out of 11 break chances, securing five breaks from 12 opportunities to control the scoreboard in the second part of the encounter and propel himself over the finish line.
Rafa had more winners than unforced errors, taming his shots nicely and earning a massive advantage in the shortest range up to four strokes to forge the victory. Federer was in touch in the more advanced exchanges, but his initial shot and the first groundstroke after it let him down completely, especially in set number two.
Trying to keep the points on his racquet, Roger had almost 40 winners and more than 40 unforced errors, unable to defend his backhand in a way he would want and losing steam after a reliable performance in the opener.
Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer in the 2011 Madrid Open semi-final.
Nadal grabbed a break in the first game following a loose backhand from the Swiss and landed an ace to bring the next game home and confirm an early advantage.
The Spaniard survived three break points in the fourth game, closing it with a volley winner to remain in front and squandering a break chance that could have sent him 4-1 in front. Instead of that, Roger forced Rafa's error in the eighth game to pull the break back and defended two break opportunities at 5-5 with powerful forehands.
The Swiss found angles with his backhand on the return in the next game to grab a break after a forehand down the line winner and secured the opener 7-5 after challenging 64 minutes. Rafa opened the second set with a break thanks to a forehand winner and fended off a break point with a service winner a couple of minutes later to cement the advantage and open a 2-0 gap.
The Spaniard had the upper hand in those moments, delivering another successful return game that sent him further in front and firing three winners in the closing stages of the next service game to erase two break points and establish a 4-0 lead.
Federer wasted a chance in the sixth game before spraying a backhand error on serve to suffer a break and hand the set to Rafa, who had momentum on his side after those commanding 6-1. Roger sprayed a backhand mistake to waste a break chance in the final set's third game, suffered a break in the next game and allowed Nadal to forge a 4-1 advantage after a hold at love.
Serving for the victory at 5-3, Rafa played against a break point following an incredible rally and Roger's drop shot winner. The Swiss netted a return to squander a massive opportunity before Nadal sealed the deal two points later for the third straight Madrid final and the 28th at the Masters 1000 level overall, still at 25.