Federer breaks Nadal's stranglehold on clay

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The Independent Online

Roger Federer declared himself "very satisfied" yesterday after stunning the world No 1 and clay court king Rafael Nadal in front of his own fans to win the Madrid Masters and claim his first title of 2009.

Going into the match, Federer had won 57 career titles, including 13 grand slam crowns, but was without a tournament success since winning on home soil in Basle last October.

Since taking his first title in 2001, Federer had never gone the first four months of the year without winning a tournament until this year.

However, that barren spell came to an end as Federer took the attack to Nadal before recording a 6-4 6-4 victory in one hour and 26 minutes.

"I served well, mixed it up well and took all the right decisions. In the end it looked quite comfortable out there for me, so it was a perfect win. I'm very satisfied," said Federer, who agonisingly lost in five sets to Nadal in the final of the Australian Open earlier this year.

"I've had some bad losses this year in terms of the way I've played but I've felt this win has been coming for a few weeks," added the Swiss, who beat Nadal on clay for only the second time in 10 attempts.

Federer's triumph also ended a remarkable run of success on clay for Nadal, who was unable to repeat his heroics from Saturday's semi-final against Novak Djokovic when he fought back from the brink to win a gruelling battle 3-6 7-6 7-6 in four hours and three minutes.

That victory over Djokovic was Nadal's 33rd successive win on clay stretching back over a year, while in total the Majorcan had won 150 of 154 matches on the surface since 2005.

Nadal, who will go in search of his fifth successive French Open crown starting next Sunday, insisted his marathon match against Djokovic had not affected his performance yesterday. "Playing four hours was not a problem," he said. "Roger was much better than me and deserved to win ."