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Federer masters Hamburg

Federer keeps his eye on the ball during Sunday's match against Marat Safin


Swiss tennis star Roger Federer has taken his first ever clay title at the Masters Series tournament in Hamburg.

The 20-year-old from Basel, who on Saturday saw off his semi-final opponent, Belarus heavyweight Max Mirnyi, claimed a straight sets victory (6-1, 6-3, 6-4) over Russian sixth seed Marat Safin.

It was Federer who looked in control from the start of the match, completely dominating his Russian opponent throughout the first two sets.

Safin, who 24 hours earlier had defeated Spain's Tommy Robredo to book his place in the final, fought back valiantly but in vain in the third set.

With a series of powerful strokes, Federer rounded off the game, set and match in a little over two hours to claim the first Master Series title of his career.

"It's been an unbelievable tournament for me," said Federer after the match.

"I played some really good tennis today. It was probably the best match of my career," he added.

Doubts about Federer's ability on clay had resurfaced this month following his early exits from the two previous competitions in Rome and Monte Carlo.

But the Swiss star - who had to fight back tears as he walked off the court in Hamburg - managed to prove his detractors wrong with Sunday's victory.

"I never thought I would win a tournament on clay because I lost my first 11 matches on the tour on clay," Federer said.

Gracious in defeat

Safin, the US Open champion in 2000, was gracious in defeat.

"Roger was the better man on court, no doubt about it," the Russian commented.

"It's ridiculous being number one and losing in three sets. It was a good match to see what I have to do better in the future," Safin added.

Safin has lost two previous matches against Federer, both of which were also on clay.

The Hamburg tournament is one of the nine Masters Series, events which rank just below the Grand Slams.

Previously known as the German Open, it is also a major warm-up for the French Open, the only Grand Slam event to be played on clay.

swissinfo with agencies

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