Rafael Nadal recalls: 'I beat Roger Federer, and something had to change'

‘I beat Roger Federer and something had to change’

The best-of-five Masters 1000 finals are long gone, and there hasn’t been a title match in this format since Miami 2007. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer played out an epic encounter in Rome 2006 that pretty much slammed the door for the best-of-five final, as the rivals failed to recover for next week’s tasks.

Rafa recalled his brilliant victories over Guillermo Coria and Roger Federer in the Foro Italico in 2005 and 2006, recalling that they both lasted over five hours. He and his opponent used too much energy and couldn’t recover and show up in Hamburg the next week.

That outstanding title match of 2006 – considered by many to be the best of all time – was the final nail in the coffin for the Best of Five Masters 1000 finals. It took Nadal five hours and five minutes to oust Federer 6-7(0) 7-6(5) 6-4 2-6 7-6(5) to defend the title in Rome, where both 120% gave start to finish.

The Spaniard was already one of the greatest clay court players at the age of 19. However, Roger entered this final in positive spirits, having pushed Rafa to the limit in Monte Carlo a month earlier. The Swiss felt ready for another strong challenge in Rome, fighting for the title he was missing from his collection.

Roger matched Rafa’s pace and had a huge chance to steal the triumph. Leading 4-1 in the final set, he wasted two match points on return and a 5-3 lead in the deciding tie-break in game 12! As always, Nadal refused to give up and overcame all obstacles to win one of the most important matches of his career and claim his sixth Masters 1000 title.

It took Rafael Nadal more than five hours to beat Roger Federer in Rome 2006.

It was Nadal’s 53rd consecutive win on clay and equaled Guillermo Vilas’ record of the Open era. He also secured his 13th straight ATP Finals win since another epic title fight against Roger in Miami a year earlier.

Roma was Nadal’s 16th and last ATP title as a teenager and was up there with Bjorn Borg at the top of the record list. Roger won five points more than Rafa and got almost everything right, saving six break points from nine and defending the second serve to remain competitive.

The Swiss was in attack mode, taking every opportunity to impose his forehand and break Nadal’s rhythm with constant hits of the net, taking a staggering 64/84 at net. World No. 1 had a slight advantage on the shortest points, following Nadal’s numbers on the longer rallies only to fall short in the closing stages of the encounter when his forehand let him down.

Never giving up, Rafa found a way to push Roger’s backhand to the limit to get back on the positive side in the deciding set. A teenager stayed focused while taking on those match points to pull off one of his finest triumphs.

“We changed the 2007 best-of-five Masters 1000 final to the best-of-three final if I’m not mistaken. In 2005 and 2006 I had to contest two marathon finals in Rome against Guillermo Coria and Roger Federer and I couldn’t play in Hamburg a week later.

For back-to-back Masters 1000 finals, it makes sense to have the best-of-three final; so we changed that. On the other hand, I’m totally against the majors; We have a day off and these tournaments are a big part of our history,” said Rafael Nadal.

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