Federer rallies to beat Nadal for Key Biscayne title

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The Independent Online

Top-ranked Roger Federer rallied from two points from defeat and won the Nasdaq-100 Open by beating 18-year-old Spaniard Rafael Nadal 2-6, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-1 Sunday.

Top-ranked Roger Federer rallied from two points from defeat and won the Nasdaq-100 Open by beating 18-year-old Spaniard Rafael Nadal 2-6, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-1 Sunday.

Federer trailed 4-2 in the third set and 5-3 in the ensuing tiebreaker, but his shots became more accurate and aggressive as he overtook a tiring Nadal in the three-hour, 42-minute marathon.Wearing long white shorts, an orange sleeveless shirt and a white headband, Nadal appeared ready for a day at the beach - and made the match look like one for a while.

"I thought Roger was a little nervous in the beginning, and I took full advantage of that," Nadal said.

An upset would have been a streak-buster: Federer has won 22 consecutive matches this year, and 18 consecutive finals since July 2003. Like Kim Clijsters, who beat Maria Sharapova in the women's final Saturday, Federer earned his first Key Biscayne title."It was extremely close," he said. "I consider myself lucky to get through."

The performance by Nadal, the youngest men's finalist in tournament history, was no fluke. The left-hander was a Davis Cup hero in Spain's victory over the United States last December, and he'll be among the favorites at this year's French Open - and future major events as well.

Nadal's deep groundstrokes with heavy topspin often forced Federer to hit balls chest high behind the baseline, and the result was a rash of mistakes by the four-time Grand Slam champion. He finished with 74 unforced errors.

Nadal also passed Federer repeatedly, kept him off balance with 177 kph (110 mph) serves and crowd-pleasing athleticism as he yanked winners crosscourt or down the line from either corner. The capacity crowd loved it - especially when Nadal punctuated his best shots with a leap and an uppercut.

Federer was less enchanted. The winner of the ATP Tour sportsmanship award in 2004, he became so frustrated that when he shanked an overhead to fall behind 5-4 in the third set, he slammed his racket to the concrete.

Nadal was two points from victory in the next game, and again in the third-set tiebreaker before Federer won four consecutive points, the first on an 18-stroke rally, to save the set.

From there, Federer settled into his characteristic groove, winning the last six games. When a weary Nadal dumped his final shot in the net, Federer threw a roundhouse punch in jubilation.

He overcame a two-set deficit for the third time in his career. The five-setter was the tournament's first since 1985, the year it began.

Federer improved to 32-1 this year, the best start on the men's tour since John McEnroe was 39-0 in 1984. He's 48-1 since the start of the U.S. Open, with his lone loss to Marat Safin in the Australian Open semifinals.

He earned $533,350 (§411,570) for this title and became the first top-seeded man to win the Key Biscayne championship since Pete Sampras in 1994. Nadal made $266,675 (§205,785).

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