Madrid Flashback: Roger Federer tops tired Rafael Nadal and writes history


World no. 1 Rafael Nadal made a flying start to the 2009 season, conquering the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. The Spaniard was the favorite at the home Madrid Masters in Caja Magica, but it all changed following the semi-final duel! Nadal beat Novak Djokovic, but it took over four hours for him to seal the deal, losing all the energy ahead of the title clash with Roger Federer. Rafa gave his best to recover in such a short time and stand as a competitive rival. Still, Federer took advantage of the circumstances and notched a 6-4, 6-4 triumph in an hour and 26 minutes, becoming the first Madrid champion in Caja Magica on the red surface. It was a significant victory for the Swiss, who started losing ground in the previous months after being defeated by his biggest rivals at the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami and Rome.

As we all know, he would carry his Madrid form to Roland Garros, beating Robin Soderling in the final to lift his first and only Major trophy in Paris and achieve a Career Grand Slam. Roger’s plan against Rafa was simple. He tried to keep the points as short as possible on the fast Madrid clay and avoid long rallies and the pressure on his backhand. The Swiss wished to avoid the unforced errors that had consistently reduced his game against Nadal on the slowest surface. Roger won five points more than Rafa. He repelled all four break chances and seized both opportunities earned on the return to emerge as a champion, toppling Nadal for the second time in 11 matches on clay.

Roger Federer claimed the 2009 Madrid Open title in Caja Magica.

Also, the Swiss finally broke Nadal’s streak of five wins in a row, all in notable finals, including Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Australian Open. It was only the fifth defeat for Rafa on clay in the last 155 matches and the first after 33 straight victories. Also, he lost to Roger for the fifth time in 16 ATP finals. That semi-final clash against Novak took a lot from Nadal. However, he was there to fight for every point, creating a break chance in the encounter’s second game that Roger saved with a service winner to avoid an early setback. The Spaniard was a better player on the court in the first six games, holding with ease and creating another break chance at 3-2 that could have sent him in front. Federer fended it off with a powerful forehand attack and leveled the score at 3-3 with two winners.

Roger stayed in touch with his opponent until game nine, when he made a massive step toward the opener. Before that game, Nadal had lost only four points in four service games. Still, Roger created a break chance with a forehand winner and converted it when Rafa netted a backhand to move 5-4 up and serve for the set. Carried by this momentum, Federer held at love with a service winner to clinch the opening set 6-4 after 40 minutes, hoping for more in the rest of the encounter. The Swiss was a more aggressive player on the court, defending the second serve efficiently before seizing the only chance on the return to make the difference. Nadal kept fighting and held at love twice at the start of the second set, with a completely different outcome waiting at 2-2. Roger created a break opportunity with a backhand drop shot winner.

Nadal sealed his fate when his forehand landed long, allowing Federer to move 3-2 ahead and control the scoreboard. Roger cemented the break with a service winner and opened a 5-3 gap with another unreturned serve in game eight, moving closer to the finish line. Nadal reduced the deficit after deuce, and Roger served for the title at 5-4, standing one good hold away from the trophy. The persistent Spaniard gained two break chances that could have changed the match entirely had he converted any of those. It was not to be for him, though, wasting the first with an open backhand that landed wide and the second after Roger’s forced error. The Swiss created a match point with an ace down the T line, and the Spaniard denied it to remain competitive. Federer blasted an ace on his second match point to bring the encounter home and lift his 15th Masters 1000 trophy, the first since Cincinnati 2007 and the fifth on clay after four in Hamburg.

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