In 2005, Rafael Nadal became the world's most excellent player on clay. He conquered Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros to establish his supremacy and mold the path towards the greatest ever on the slowest surface. Rafa was the dominant factor between April and June in the upcoming years, rattling off one big event after another and waiting to prove his quality once again in 2010 after suffering a shocking loss to Robin Soderling at Roland Garros a year earlier. Returning in full glory, Nadal won Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid that spring to write new pages of tennis history as the first player with all three clay-court Masters 1000 titles in a single season! After an unprecedented run in Monte Carlo that left all the rivals miles behind him, Nadal claimed the Rome title and took a week off before Madrid. He pursued the first title in Caja Magica after losing the title match a year ago to Roger Federer.
Unlike that marathon against Novak Djokovic in the semis 12 months earlier, nothing would stop the Spaniard en route to the trophy, securing the 39th ATP title and the 18th at the Masters 1000 level. Thus, he moved in front of Andre Agassi and became the Masters 1000 record holder at 23. Rafa beat Roger Federer 6-4, 7-6 in the title match on May 16 and avenged the last year's defeat. Rafa did not lose serve against Alexandr Dolgopolov, John Isner and Gael Monfils before struggling against Nicolas Almagro in the semis. Nadal lost the opening set before establishing the order in sets two and three to book the 21st meeting against Roger, the first in a year. Nadal earned the 14th triumph over the most significant rival in two hours and 11 minutes, taking only one point more than Federer in a mighty close encounter that could have gone either way.
Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer in 2010 for his first Caja Magica title.
Both opponents created 11 break chances in what was not the best day for the servers, as they both lost over 40% of the points behind the initial shot. Nadal secured four breaks and lost serve three times to cross the finish line first and claim two outstanding records. Roger had more winners and more unforced errors, the usual price for his aggression against Rafa and determination to keep the points on his racquet and avoid more prolonged hitting. Interestingly, the Swiss had the upper hand in those most extended exchanges and the shortest ones, while Nadal erased the deficit in the mid-range rallies that moved him over the top. Federer kicked off the clash with a hold at love after an ace and created a break chance in game two. He wasted it after a good serve from Rafa, who held when Roger sent a backhand long. It was the Spaniard's turn to make damage on the return in game three, converting the third break chance after Federer's backhand mistake to move 2-1 up and secure the first lead.
Ready to fight for every point, Roger broke back at 15 in the next game when Nadal's forehand landed beyond the baseline. Still, the Swiss had to chase the result again when the home star clinched the fifth break chance in game seven. A forehand down the line winner pushed Nadal 5-3 in front, and he served for the set at 5-4. Rafa hit a double fault in that tenth game and faced trouble. Federer squandered two break opportunities with groundstroke errors from both wings and created the third with a smash winner, giving everything to prolong the set. Rafa repelled it with a good serve to Roger's backhand and had to play against another break chance after a loose backhand. Once again, the serve got him out of trouble, and the set was in his hands following a forehand crosscourt winner for 6-4 after a challenging 55 minutes and 15 break opportunities overall!
With momentum on his side, Nadal broke in the second set's first game. That did not last for long, as Federer pulled the break back in the next one after a bullet from his backhand. Rafa moved ahead at 2-2 after hitting three marvelous backhand winners in a row to forge another lead and cement it with a solid hold for 4-2. With no time to waste, Roger broke back in game eight after Nadal's loose forehand. The Swiss survived two deuces at 5-5 and set up a tie break, a must-win one for him. A beautiful drop shot winner pushed Roger 4-2 up before spraying three terrible groundstroke errors that gave Rafa the advantage. The Spaniard sealed the deal after a return winner at 6-5 when Federer missed the ball entirely after a bad bounce, celebrating the title and entering history books.
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