Roger Federer climbed back to No. 2 in the rankings after rallying to beat Tomas Berdych 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 and win the Madrid Open for a third time on Sunday.
While Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal had blamed the new blue-clay court for their early exits, Federer's biggest obstacle was to overcome an opponent who had beaten him in three of their previous five meetings.
"It is amazing to win here again," said Federer, who overtakes Nadal as the second-ranked player behind Djokovic. "It has been a tough tournament. Tough to move, but you've got to try to make the most of it. Here there was some good tennis and some bad tennis, but you see that in all tournaments."
Berdych hit 14 winners and made just two unforced errors in a dominant first set. However, Federer finally found his ground game and broke Berdych twice to even the score and force the decisive third set, where he secured victory after Berdych had saved three championship points.
The sixth-seeded Berdych jumped out to a 3-0 lead after hitting a crosscourt return to take Federer's first service game.
Federer, who won here in 2006 and 2009, saved two set points before Berdych clinched the first set with a big serve that the Swiss star could only knock back into the net.
Federer continued to struggle with his shotmaking, but the 16-time Grand Slam winner leveled the match by breaking twice in the second set, including when Berdych hit a double fault on set point.
"It was a tough tournament and a brutal draw. Tomas played very well," said Federer. "I'm sure we will see each other many more times and they will be quality matches like this one."
Berdych, who had carried the initiative through most of the match, became erratic as the pressure grew in the decider.
Serving to send the match to a tiebreaker, he fell behind 0-40 and then rallied back to force deuce, only to hit long and then net his final volley to end the match in just over two and a half hours.
The former top-ranked Federer had not been higher than No. 3 since March 2011.
"I want to congratulate Roger. He showed that he is really the star," Berdych said.
ATP Champions Rankings 2012...
1 Novak Djokovic (Ser) 11200.00pts, 2 Roger Federer
(Swi) 9430.00, 3 Rafael Nadal (Spa) 9105.00, 4 Andy Murray (Gbr)
7500.00, 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra) 4930.00, 6 David Ferrer (Spa)
4460.00, 7 Tomas Berdych (Cze) 4410.00, 8 Janko Tipsarevic (Ser)
3090.00, 9 Juan Martin Del Potro (Arg) 2970.00, 10 John Isner (USA)