In the spring of 2007, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had been the best players in the world for two years, competing at a different level compared to all opponents and dominating their favorite surfaces like almost no one before them. Nadal had not lost on clay in 72 surreal matches (Roger would end that streak in the final in Hamburg two weeks later). In contrast, Federer had won 48 straight grass court matches since Mario Ancic defeated him at Wimbledon 2002, adding four Wimbledon titles to his tally. With those numbers in mind, the idea came up to see these two great rivals in a type of exhibition match scheduled for May 2 on Nadal’s home island. It took 19 days and $ 1.63 million to create a special court that had never been seen before, containing grass in one half and clay in the other. After two hours and 29 minutes of entertaining battle, Nadal won 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (10), saving two match points in the decisive tie-break to emerge as the winner against the home crowd. It was a fascinating clash, both for the result and for the fact that they had to change their shoes in the breaks between games regarding the part of the court they would play next. Rafael Nadal recently revealed that the Madrid Open is the toughest claycourt tournament for him.
Rafael Nadal on the Mutua Madrid Open
“Madrid is the most difficult tournament for me (on clay),” Rafael Nadal said. “Everyone knows that. At the same time, it is one of the most emotional tournaments for me because I play at home,” Nadal said. “We will have the opportunity to play in front of the audience again. That means a lot to me.” During his Madrid press conference, Rafael Nadal reflected on what was an “important” week for him in Catalonia. “My mentality remains the same in every tournament: to play at the highest level from the first game,” Nadal said. “I just have to say that Barcelona was a very important one week for me. Of course, without doing my best from the start, I could keep a positive attitude and accept the challenge and try to win games without doing my best in my career.” To get to the bottom of this, the interviewer inquired whether he works hard on every single point as his reputation would suggest. In response, Rafa said, “No, I think I’m a relaxed guy outside of the court. On court, I think I have always been playing with a positive attitude and, of course, try my best, no? But almost always under good self-control, no?”