Hamburg:Rafael Nadal beat four-time champion Roger Federer 7-5, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3 in the Hamburg Masters final on Sunday to complete his collection of major clay court titles.
The second-ranked Spaniard Nadal saved two set points as he fought from 5-1 down in the first set, lost the second after initially overcoming a 5-2 deficit, but never looked back after breaking Federer for 3-1 in the third.
Nadal, 21, wrapped up matters with a backhand winner after two hours 52 minutes and sunk on his knees afterwards in delight.
Federer compiled an unusually high number of 41 unforced errors while Nadal had just 28.
Hamburg was the only big clay title eluding Nadal, who has three straight French Open crowns and also won at the Masters in Monte Carlo and Rome.
Nadal won his 26th career title, of which 21 are on his favourite surface, where he has a 108-2 record since April 2005, the other defeat coming in Rome almost two weeks ago against compatriot Juan Carlos Ferrero.
His only defeat in a clay final came 2007 in Hamburg against Federer. He leads Federer 10-6 overall and 8-1 on clay.
The Hamburg win was worth 360,000 euros, Federer got half the amount with 180,000 euros.
"The whole week has been special for me," said Nadal. Federer acknowledged that Nadal played "great all week and throughout the clay court season."
Federer lost for the first time in Hamburg (and in Germany) since a third-round defeat in 2003 to Australian Mark Philippoussis. He won 41 straight matches in Hamburg and Halle going into Sunday's game.
At first it appeared that Federer would extend that streak as he raced off to a 5-1 lead. But he then wasted a set point in the seventh game and other in the eighth as Nadal took the set after all with six unanswered games.
Nadal broke in the opening game of the second but soon found himself 5-2 down. Again, he fought back, to 5-5 plus three break points for 6-5. But this time around Federer managed to deny the comeback as he breezed through the tiebreak.
It was all over for Federer when Nadal broke for 3-1 in the third. The Spaniard saved a break point at 4-2 and lifted the trophy a few minutes later.
The two could meet again at the French Open which start next Sunday.
"I am disappointed to lose. Hopefully I can get over it for Paris," said Federer.