Rafael Nadal warmed up for his French Open title defense in style when he dethroned a demoralized Roger Federer as Hamburg Masters champion, winning the final 7-5, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3 on Sunday.
In a rematch of last year’s title clash, which was won by Federer, triple Roland Garros champion Nadal showed a determined fighting spirit with a superb array of shots to claim victory after 2 hours, 52 minutes.
It was the Spaniard’s 10th win over Federer — his eighth on clay. It also ended the Swiss world No. 1’s 41-match unbeaten run on German soil.
The pair had contrasting fortunes coming into the final.
Having not dropped a set all tournament, Federer needed just over an hour to see off unseeded Italian Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-1 in Saturday’s semi-final.
By contrast, Nadal fought an epic three-set battle over three hours in his semi-final against Novak Djokovic, the champion on Rome’s clay last week.
After breaking Nadal in only the second game of the first set, Federer was in total control and broke again to take a commanding lead at 5-1.
Nadal then called for the physio to look at a troublesome hamstring and it looked like it was all over with barely 30 minutes played.
Federer then twice served for the first set, but Nadal’s defense held and he stunned the Swiss star by breaking the world No. 1 three times with some excellent line shots to serve out for the first set 7-5 after exactly an hour.
At the start of the second, Federer was broken again, but responded in kind by breaking back the Spaniard twice with a serve and volley game and then resumed control to serve out to a 4-1 lead.
The game took another twist with Federer leading the second set 5-2, as Nadal rallied again to level the set at 5-5 as the set went to a tie-break. Nadal took a 2-0 lead in the tie-break, only to see Federer roar back to win the second set breaker 7-3 and level the final.
But in the deciding set, Nadal held his nerve after charging into a 4-1 lead, before Federer trimmed him back to 5-3, but the Spaniard served it out and roared his joy at gaining revenge for his defeat in last year’s final.