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Nadal trumps Federer in classic final

RAFAEL Nadal held off Roger Federer in another epic five-set Grand Slam final, keeping Pete Sampras' record of 14 major titles intact for now.

Nadal became the first Spanish man to win the Australian Open when he beat Federer 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-2 in a momentum-swinging, 4-hour, 22-minute final last night.

Federer sobbed at the trophy presentation.

"Maybe I'll try later. God, it's killing me," Federer said, crying. He returned to congratulate Nadal within minutes, saying: "You deserved it. You played a fantastic final."

Top-ranked Nadal, who has won five of the seven Grand Slam finals they've contested, now has a major on hard courts to go with his titles on clay and grass.

He's the only man capable of a Grand Slam this season, 40 years after Australian great Rod Laver last won all four majors in one season.

"Roger, sorry for today. I really know how you feel right now," Nadal said. "Remember, you're a great champion, you're one of the best in history. You're going to improve on the 14 of Sampras."

Nadal collected the trophy from Laver in the court that was named in the great Australian's honor, and put his arm around Federer.

"To receive this trophy from Rod Laver is a dream for me," he said. "Rod, thanks very much. It was an amazing two weeks for me."

Federer said the fact he'd missed the Sampras record at a tournament he's won three times didn't make the loss any worse or easier to take.

"Honestly, no," he said after the match. "I mean, it's more like, in the first moment you're disappointed, you're shocked, you're sad, you know, then all of a sudden it overwhelms you.

"The problem is you can't go in the locker room and just take it easy and take a cold shower. You're stuck out there. It's the worst feeling. ... it's rough."

Federer, so dominant when he won three of the four majors in 2006 and 2007, has now lost finals on three different surfaces to Nadal.

He hasn't given up hope of beating the 22-year-old Spaniard.

"For sure," he said. "I didn't spend 4 1/2 hours out there (not) believing it."

Nadal has four consecutive titles on clay at Roland Garros and beat Federer on grass in a five-set epic at Wimbledon last year.

Nadal is 13-6 overall against Federer and ended the Swiss star's 237-week streak at No. 1 last year after claiming the Beijing Olympic gold medal.

Federer saved two championship points from 15-40 in the eighth game of the fifth set but sent a forehand long on the third match point.

Nadal flopped onto his back, then got up and raced to shake hands.

The players put their arms around the other's shoulders at the net as they walked off the court.

Although Federer actually won one more point - 174-173 - his serve let him down all too frequently. He connected on only 51 percent of his first serves, and it seemed as if all of his six double-faults came at critical times.

And as the pressure ratcheted up in the fifth set, it was Federer who wilted, not Nadal. Federer had six winners and 14 unforced errors in the set, while Nadal had just two unforced errors and dropped only three points in four service games.

Federer was only able to convert 6 of his 19 breakpoint chances. Nadal converted 7 of 16.

Both players started tight, committing uncharacteristic errors. Knowing that weak shots would be punished, they were pushing the limits.

Nadal broke Federer for a 3-1 lead in the fifth set. The Spaniard clinched victory by breaking again in the eighth game.


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