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Paris, June 10:
Roger Federer’s bid to complete a career Grand Slam was foiled again on Sunday by nemesis Rafael Nadal at the French Open.
Nadal earned his third Roland Garros title in a row, beating Federer 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a final in which the Spaniard lost serve only once. For the third consecutive year in Paris, the top-ranked Federer sought to become the sixth man to win all four Grand Slam events.
Nadal beat him in the semi-finals in 2005, and in the final last year. The loss also spoiled Federer’s bid to win a fourth consecutive major title, something last done by Rod Laver in 1969.
With a sequence of brilliant shots, Federer won many of the highlight-reel rallies, but squandered chances doomed him. He failed to convert his first 11 breakpoint chances, putting pressure on his own serve by repeatedly allowing Nadal to hold. Nadal saved 16 of 17 break points and broke serve four times in 10 chances. He had only 27 unforced errors to 59 for Federer.
For Federer, the story was all too familiar: since the beginning of 2005, he’s 4-7 against Nadal and 199-7 against everyone else. He fell to 1-6 lifetime against Nadal on clay.
The second-ranked Nadal made a little history of his own, becoming the second man since 1914 to win the tournament three consecutive times, and the first since Bjorn Borg in 1978-81. Still only 21, Nadal improved to 21-0 at Roland Garros and 34-0 in best-of-five-set matches on clay.
Federer repeatedly had chances to take command. In the first set, Nadal fell behind on his serve 15-40 twice and love-40 once, but each time the Spaniard rallied to hold.
Federer took a 3-2 lead but became dispirited when he failed to convert five break points in the next game, and Nadal won five consecutive games.
Federer broke for the only time to go ahead 4-3 in the second set. Even then he needed five set-point opportunities before he closed out the set to pull even. It was the only set Nadal lost in the tournament.
In the final two sets, Nadal faced only one breakpoint, saving it with a big forehand. He won $1.34 million, while Federer received $670,000 — small consolation for a player who has dominated the other major events, winning Wimbledon four times and the US Open and Australian Open three times each, all since 2003.