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Federer stuns Nadal as Safina wins

ROGER Federer beat top-ranked Rafael Nadal in a final for the first time in two years to claim the Madrid Open title 6-4, 6-4.

Second-ranked Federer broke a sluggish Nadal once in both sets before firing his sixth ace of the match to claim his 15th Masters Series title on the second match point yesterday.

It was only Federer's second victory over his top rival on clay with the other coming at the Hamburg final two years ago. Federer also won here in 2006 when the event was played on indoor hard court.

Federer's first title of the season ended Nadal's 33-match clay winning streak going into the French Open, where the Spaniard is going for a fifth straight title.

Nadal was bidding to become the first man to win all three claycourt Masters Series events in one year after his victories in Monte Carlo and Rome but slipped to only his fifth loss on his favored surface in 155 matches since 2005.

Earlier, top-ranked Dinara Safina of Russia beat Danish teenager Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-4 to win the women's title.

The Russian goes into the French Open with two straight clay titles following last week's win in Rome.

Safina overpowered her 18-year-old opponent with 24 winners and three break points at the "Magic Box" tennis center in the Spanish capital. It was Safina's 11th career title.

"Since I became No. 1 I'm playing better and better," the 23-year-old said.

Wozniacki, facing a top-ranked player for the first time, will become the first Dane to crack the top-10 in this week's rankings after reaching her third final of the season.

Safina will go into Roland Garros buoyed by her recent success on clay after finishing runner-up at the Australian Open and Stuttgart.

She got off to a quick start against her younger opponent, who she was playing for the first time, scoring a break in the third game after both held serve to start. Another break proved enough for her to take the first set.

"I was feeling very comfortable from the start of the match and I was trying to be as aggressive as I could," said Safina, who was bothered by a slight knee problem. "But even in the key moments I was very strong."

Wozniacki, who hadn't dropped a set in reaching the final, hit a forehand long to be broken again at the start of the second and then could only watch as Safina slammed a two-handed backhand down the line for 2-0.

Wozniacki had Safina scrambling and looked set to clinch her first break point in the fourth game, but was lobbed after coming to the net. Safina then took a 3-1 lead when Wozniacki hit the ball out.

In the eighth game of the set, Wozniacki set up three of her five break chances with some delicate drop shots, but her good work was undone by several of her 22 unforced errors.

Safina is now 14-1 on clay this season.

On Saturday, Nadal saved three match points to rally past Novak Djokovic 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (9) in a Masters Series record four-hour-plus semifinal on Saturday.

Nadal, 22, and Djokovic, 21, were meeting for the 18th occasion and the third time in five weeks after the Spaniard beat the Serb in the final in Monte Carlo and Rome.


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