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Nadal determined to maintain 100 percent record

sports Updated: May 26, 2007 16:47 IST
Pritha Sarkar
Pritha Sarkar
Reuters
Highlight Story

An isolated defeat on clay, albeit at the hands of the world's best player, will do nothing to quell Rafael Nadal's desire to preserve his 100 per cent record at the French Open.

The Spaniard will stride through the gates at Roland Garros next week safe in the knowledge that he has never been beaten at the traditional home of claycourt tennis.

When action begins on Sunday, Nadal will be aiming to become the first man to win a hat-trick of French Open trophies in his first three visits to Paris.

Until last Sunday, it seemed as if no one would be able to stop the Nadal juggernaut from running away with the title in the French capital.

But Roger Federer is no ordinary player and the Swiss maestro reignited the most intriguing rivalry in the sport when he snapped Nadal's 81-match winning streak on clay in the Hamburg Masters final.

Despite being forced to digest his first defeat on the slow surface since April 2005, Nadal remained upbeat.

"My confidence is at 100 percent going into the French Open," he said.

"I've played a lot of finals over the past months and I'm back playing better tennis than ever. I can't be sad about losing one match against the best player in the world."

The levelling effect of tennis's most taxing surface means Roland Garros provides the perfect platform for the Spaniard and the Swiss to continue their duel for supremacy.

SHOCK VALUE

Federer has won every grand slam title except the French Open, defending champion Nadal has won nothing else.

Between the two they have stacked up the last eight majors.

Federer is undoubtedly the most complete all-round player around but on clay, where endurance rather than finesse is a key requirement, he is still cast in the role of pretender.

Not often does a world number one beating a world number two hold such shock value. But as Nadal held a 5-0 advantage over Federer on red dirt until last weekend, the Hamburg victory proved to be a monumental feat for the Swiss.

"It's absolutely a breakthrough," Federer, the Wimbledon, U.S. and Australian Open champion, told reporters.

"It will be interesting to see how we both react to it in the French Open.

"I'm feeling very good going into the French Open and I'm excited it's coming around now."

Having ended his jinx against Nadal, Federer is now seeking to emulate American Don Budge and his hero Rod Laver by becoming only the third man to hold all four grand slam trophies at the same time.

With Nadal and Federer targeting a final showdown on June 10, the remaining 126 competitors will probably end up chasing semi-final spots.

American Andy Roddick may be in pole position to secure one of those berths with his world number three status but with just four wins in six appearances, he would do well to survive the first week.

That would leave world number four Nikolay Davydenko -- the tour's Mr Consistent -- fifth ranked Fernando Gonzalez and fast-rising Serbian Novak Djokovic to push the world's top two.

Gonzalez is enjoying his most rewarding season on the circuit with final appearances in Melbourne Park and Rome while 20-year-old Djokovic is ready to take centre stage in the sport's biggest arenas after capturing three titles in 2007.