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Federer’s win may have changed equations

It was Federer’s first win in six attempts on clay against Nadal. And 6-0 rout in the final set made it doubly satisfying, reports Atul Sondhi.

sports Updated: May 21, 2007 11:59 IST

An awe-inspiring, come from behind, tremendous win which must have given Federer loads of confidence ahead of the French Open.

At one stage down 2-6, 1-1 and 15-40 on serve, Federer made a miraculous recovery, which only determined souls can make. When the whole world was predicting another of Nadal’s clinical wins, probably only Federer thought otherwise, tried to stay in, and it paid.

Can you blank out a man, who has won 81 consecutive matches on clay, in the decisive set! But Federer did precisely that in his convincing 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 win at Hamburg.

It is not easy to break Nadal on Clay. Federer did it four consecutive times to wrap up the last eight games, and, deservedly, the match.

Nadal, humble as ever, said in the post-match ceremony that it feels bad to see the sequence of 81 consecutive wins ending, "but if I had to lose, I had to lose to this man (Federer)" . Thunderous applause were the natural corollary.

For Federer, winning Hamburg Masters is nothing new. He has done it four times since 2002, losing only once. But this win, against a man who always showed steely resolve on clay, means a lot for the World of Tennis.

Nadal is vulnerable

The clay king can certainly be beaten. Hewitt almost did it in the semis, and Federer gave it finishing touches on Sunday. The key is to come to the net. Federer did it in plenty in the second and third sets, and Nadal, for once found no answers. His cross-court forehands, so deadly otherwise, were missing the line under pressure.

But even more important thing that came out, was to play as if you have nothing to lose. That is what Federer did after losing the first set. Things could not have gone worse, and they did change for the better!

After so many failures against Nadal on clay, another failure did not matter. A psychologically immune Federer at his imperious best. Nothing could be deadlier and it showed today.

However, on the positive side for Nadal. He will have one pressure less when he goes on to defend his French Open title. The pressure of extending his winning streak!

French Open will truly be Open

With Federer again emerging as a strong challenger, and players like Hewitt, Davydenko, Moya and Ferrer as worthy contenders, this French Open is likely to be an extremely absorbing battle.

The great show put in by other players have ensured that it is no longer certain that number two and one seed will meet in the final.

Even Federer is susceptible to the pressure exerted by other Clay court specialists. Did not Moya stretch him to the extremes in the semis. Last year, Nalbandian was all over the eventual runners up before an attack of
nerves did him in.

The battle of Clay starting one week from now will indeed be a battle worthy of a Grand Slam. With all the players in great shape, a great show does look guaranteed.