Rafael Nadal won his first five clay-court battles against Roger Federer, with four of them coming in a championship match. That didn’t discourage the Swiss, though, and he’d get his revenge in a big way in the 2007 Hamburg final.
Nadal entered that championship match against Federer carrying an 81-match clay-court winning streak, the longest single-surface run in the Open Era. The Spaniard hadn’t lost on clay since April 2005 in Valencia against Igor Andreev.
“Winning 81 matches is an amazing streak,” Federer said after the final.
The Swiss had lost in straight sets the previous week in Rome against World No. 53 Filippo Volandri. But he found his best tennis to bring Nadal’s legendary run to an end, winning 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 to capture his record fourth Hamburg title.
“It’s great to play here again and win again,” Federer said. “I’ve fallen in love with this tournament.”
In the semi-finals, Nadal had survived a scare against former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt 7-5 in the third set. The lefty appeared to put that behind him, looking sharp early against Federer. He was always a step ahead in the rallies, attacking relentlessly when given the opportunity and holding steady on defence until Federer beat himself with errors.
But Federer cleaned up his game in the next two sets and Nadal found few answers for the Swiss’ aggressive play.
“If I had to lose to anyone, Roger is the man,” Nadal said.
The final set marked the third time Nadal lost a tour-level set on clay 0-6. It has not happened in the 13 years since.
Nadal’s Memorable Marathon Win Against Djokovic In Hamburg
Nadal didn’t get down on himself, defeating Federer in that year’s Roland Garros final. When he returned to Hamburg the following year, he had a chance to avenge his defeat in the final.
The lefty was tired after a three-hour, three-minute marathon against Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals and Federer started their Hamburg rematch quickly with two breaks in his first three return games for a 5-1 lead. Nadal never stopped fighting though, winning six consecutive games to sneak out the first set and eventually claim his first Hamburg title 7-5, 6-7(3), 6-3 across two hours and 52 minutes.
“[It] was an important win for me,” Nadal said. “I was focused all the time. Roger had some important mistakes in the first set that helped me a lot. I started the match playing bad. It was tough for me. After yesterday [against Djokovic] it was tough in the beginning.
“But it’s not only the body. Mentally it is tough, too, because it was a lot of tensions yesterday, a lot of pressure. Today it was tough when I was coming on court. But later everything changed. For sure it’s important to beat the [World] No. 1.”
Federer was on a 41-match winning streak in Germany, which included a perfect 9-0 in finals.
“All in all it was alright. It wasn’t my best performance,” Federer said. “If you get broken so many times, there is always something you are a little bit unhappy about.”
Nadal carried that momentum against Federer by beating the Swiss again at Roland Garros and then defeating him for his first Wimbledon title in what is considered by many the greatest match in history.