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Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Sunday, 18 May 2008 17:36 UK

Nadal battles to win over Federer

Rafael Nadal
Nadal beat Federer to win his first title on German soil

Rafael Nadal clinched his first Hamburg Masters title with a hard-fought 7-5 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 win over the defending champion and top seed Roger Federer.

The world number two needed two hours and 52 minutes to beat the world number one in a gruelling and tense match.

He came back from 5-1 down to clinch the first set, while Federer also let an advantage slip in the second before taking the set in the tie-break.

Nadal broke twice in the third as he claimed the 26th title of his career.

"It was important to win because it was the last big clay-court tournament I never won," said Nadal.

The Spaniard has now beaten Federer on eight of the pair's previous nine meetings on clay.

The Swiss star's solitary victory over the Spaniard came in last year's Hamburg final, when Federer ended Nadal's 81-match winning streak on clay.

This time, however, Nadal got his revenge and brought an end to four-time champion Federer's 41-match unbeaten run on German soil.

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In the first set Federer seemed in total control at 5-1 but, as in last month's Monte Carlo final, the Swiss could not convert a lead.

Nadal fought back in typically aggressive fashion, aided by some unforced errors from Federer who twice served for the set.

Despite needing treatment on an injured leg after the seventh game, Nadal turned the match on its head by winning seven games on the trot to take the set.

The momentum swung back in Federer's favour when he broke serve in the fourth game of the second set after a superb rally on the deciding point.

As in the first set, Nadal fought back impressively from 5-2 behind to force a tie-break, but Federer was not to be denied and took it 7-3.

In the deciding set, Nadal got the crucial first break in game four and, after making sure with another soon after, sealed victory with a beautiful angled backhand.

The victory confirms that the Mallorcan heads to next week's French Open as an overwhelming favourite to defend his title.

"For sure this has given me more confidence for Roland Garros," he said.

Of his treatment break, Nadal said: "I felt something in the leg, a bit of pain.

"Tomorrow I think I am going to do another check but I believe if I play the whole match like this it can't be a very important injury."

Federer was gracious in defeat, saying: "Rafa has played incredibly well again the whole week and the whole clay season.

"It's hard for the rest of us but hopefully it will be a different story in Paris."


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