French Open title again eludes Federer

Monday, June 11, 2007
Rafael Nadal reacted after beating Roger Federer in the championship match of the French Open on Sunday at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris. (Francois Mori ~ Associated Press)

Nadal improved to 21-0 in French Open matches with the victory.

PARIS -- There it stood, so tantalizingly close.

As Roger Federer tried in vain to solve Rafael Nadal in the French Open final, the silver Coupe des Mousquetaires -- the only Grand Slam trophy missing from the No. 1-ranked player's collection -- sparkled in the sun behind a baseline, 10 feet overhead.

So successful everywhere else, so superb against everyone else, Federer once more succumbed to Nadal at Roland Garros, one win short of a French Open title, one win short of a fourth consecutive major championship, one win short of a career Grand Slam.

Instead, it was Nadal who made a bit of history Sunday, showing true resolve on the biggest points to beat Federer 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and become only the second man since 1914 to win three consecutive French Open titles.

"Spin it any way you want -- I'm disappointed to have lost. I couldn't care less how I played the last 10 months or the last 10 years. At the end of the day, I wanted to win that match," said Federer, who lost to Nadal in four sets in last year's final, too. "I couldn't do it. It's a shame. But life goes on."

Nadal saved a remarkable 16 of the 17 break points he faced, going 10-for-10 in the first set and 1-for-1 over the last two sets.

While Federer remains convinced he can win this event -- "And, eventually, if I get it, the sweeter it's going to taste," he said -- the real question might be how many French Opens will end as Sunday's did: with Nadal sprawled on his back, celebrating in the red clay.

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