Roger Federer has failed to unseat defending champion Rafael Nadal in the 2011 French Open final, losing 7-5, 7-6 (7-3), 5-7, 6-1.
The third-seeded Swiss was unable to turn the match against his self-declared “main rival” to his advantage. In winning, Nadal retained his world number one ranking and equaled Bjorn Borg’s record of six French Open titles.
Heading into the final, Federer and Nadal had already made history, having played against each other in seven previous Grand Slam title matches, more than any pair of men in tennis history.
But this was their first meeting at this stage of a major tournament in more than two years.
In the decisive, hour-long first set, Federer started out stronger, breaking Nadal in the second game. Down 5-2, Nadal then found his rhythm, turning the set around, breaking Federer twice to win it.
His dominance continued into the 72-minute second set, breaking Federer’s first service and leading the Swiss to make more unforced errors. (During the entire match he made 56 to Nadal’s 27.)
Appearing almost timid up against Nadal’s relentless returns and strength, Federer however managed to hold onto his service games in the set, breaking the Spaniard to level 4-4, only to be broken again by him in his next service game.
A 16-time grand slam champion, Federer still showed flashes of being the “world’s best player”, as "Rafa's" coach Toni Nadal described him to French television at one point during the set.
When rain briefly stopped play towards the end of the second set, Federer came back with a break, but ceded to Nadal in the 6-3 tie break.
The match picked up in the more-evenly matched third set, Federer appearing to change his game and gaining a rare upperhand at 5-5 - three hours into the match - which enabled him to take the set.
The fourth set saw Federer returning to his old form, but still handing two games to Nadal, who moved in for the kill.
Speaking afterwards, Nadal apologised to Federer for winning, telling the court: "I think we played a good match."
For his part Federer said Nadal had once again shown he was one of the best players on clay, and said he was proud of his record at this year's tournament.
It was the sixth time Nadal had beaten Federer in eight grand slam finals. He won 16 of their previous 24 matches.
"I'm going to play against Nadal, my main rival, in another Grand Slam final. We live for these moments,” Federer said ahead of the match.
The pair had met three times before in the final of the French Open – in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Nadal won every encounter.
The Spaniard's only loss at the French Open came two years ago when he was defeated by Robin Soderling in the fourth round. But he came back in 2010 and won his fifth title, beating Soderling in the final. This year, Nadal beat Soderling in the quarterfinals.
Federer’s victory against Novak Djokovic in the semis put him into his first grand slam final in more than 16 months, his longest drought since he won his first major title at Wimbledon in 2003.
His offensive approach in the lead up to the final bodes well for Wimbledon this year, where he will be seeking a seventh title.
17 wins against Federer
Turned pro in 2001
46 career titles
Career prize money: $40 million
8 wins against Nadal
Turned pro in 1998
67 career titles
Career prize money: $62 millionend of infobox
The French Open is the second grand slam event of the year and is held at the Stade Roland Garros in Paris.
It took place this year from May 17-June 5.
The 2011 French Open offered prize money of €17,520,000 (SFr21,900,000) up from €16,807,400 in 2010.
As in 2010 the event awarded equal prize money to men and women in all events. The male and female singles champions each receive €1,200,000, up from €1,120,000 last year.
The event began as a national tournament in 1891 as the Championnat de France International de Tennis.
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