Tue, May 16, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Nadal overcomes Federer in five sets

AP , ROME

Spain's Rafael Nadal serves the ball to Switzerland's Roger Federer during the final of the Rome Masters in Rome on Sunday. Nadal won 6-7 (0), 7-6 (5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (5).

PHOTO: AP

Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer in five sets on Sunday to defend his Rome Masters title and tie Guillermo Vilas' record 53-match winning streak on clay in the Open era.

"It's something I don't think I'll ever do again," Nadal said of the record. "But it was more important to win the Rome title."

The second-ranked Spaniard saved two match points at 5-6 in the fifth set when Federer missed two forehands, then closed out the 6-7 (0), 7-6 (5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (5) win on his first match point in the tiebreaker when the top-ranked Swiss player hit another forehand long.

"I should have won. He caught me right at the finish line," said Federer, who also wasted a 4-1 lead in the fifth set.

The match lasted 5 hours, 5 minutes, and Nadal dropped down to the clay on his back in celebration after it was over.

Nadal has now beaten Federer in four straight matches, including in the semifinals of last year's French Open.

The Rome Masters is a clay-court warmup for Roland Garros, which begins in two weeks.

The 19-year-old Nadal began his streak at the Monte Carlo Masters in April 2005 and has now won nine straight tournaments on clay. His 16th title also tied him with Bjorn Borg for most titles won as a teenager.

Vilas set his streak in 1977, beginning with a win in May at the French Open and ending with a loss to Ilie Nastase in October in Aix en Provence, France.

Nadal can break the record with a win against Tommy Haas in the first round of the Hamburg Masters next week.

Shahar Peer, 19, of Israel won her second career WTA Tour title in beating Samantha Stosur of Australia 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.

Peer, seeded third and ranked 35th, earned her first singles championship in February at Pattaya City, Thailand.

Peer also swept the doubles in Prague, combining with France's Marion Bartoli to beat American pair Ashley Harkleroad and Bathanie Mattek 6-4, 6-4.

Second-seeded Nadia Petrova won her third straight clay-court title, beating third-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

The Russian, who ran her clay-court winning streak to 15 matches, overcame back and leg injuries in a match lasting nearly three hours at French Open warmup.

Henin-Hardenne missed a backhand down the line on match point and Petrova ran to hug her coach. The Russian was twice treated for her injuries.

"I was questioning myself if I could finish the match. I'm amazed I won the way I did," Petrova said. "It's a great feeling. Hopefully, I can get to the top -- that is a big dream of mine."

Top-ranked Amelie Mauresmo and No. 3 Maria Sharapova withdrew from the Italian Open on Sunday.

Mauresmo, the two-time defending champion in Rome, said she had a cold and fever. Sharapova has a bruised bone in her right ankle.

The tournamentis a clay-court warmup for the French Open.

Mauresmo lost to Justine Henin-Hardenne in the semifinals of the German Open on Saturday. Sharapova has not played since losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final of the NASDAQ-100 Open on April 1.

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