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MADRID - Roger Federer inflicted a rare clay-court defeat on his great rival Rafael Nadal yesterday when he beat the world No1 6-4 6-4 in the Madrid Open final.
Nadal was bidding to become the first man to win all three clay-court Masters events in one year after his victories in Monte Carlo and Rome but slipped to only his fifth loss on his favoured surface in 155 matches since 2005.
World No2 Federer fended off break points in the second and sixth games of the first set and then grabbed a crucial break in game nine before serving out the set to love.
A delicate drop shot that even the athletic Spaniard could not chase down gave him another opportunity in the fifth game of the second set and Nadal netted a backhand to fall 3-2 behind.
Federer slipped to 15-40 when serving for the match but fought back to deuce and powered an ace down the middle on his second championship point before raising his arms in triumph.
Federer and Nadal have played 20 times going back to the Miami Masters in 2004 and the Swiss had won one match on clay against the French Open champ in 10 previous games, the final of the Hamburg Masters in 2007.
In the women's final, world No1 Dinara Safina swept to her second claycourt title in as many weeks with a 6-2 6-4 victory over Danish teenager Caroline Wozniacki
After her triumph over Svetlana Kuznetsova in last week's Rome final, the powerful Russian top seed sealed another comfortable win and looks in fine form leading up to the French Open at the end of this month. - Reuters