TENNIS - Roman holiday.jpg

TENNIS – Roman holiday

THE ATP Italian Masters ended in yet another titanic final showdown between world number one, Roger Federer, and the young clay court king, Rafael Nadal. Federer, who has yet to win in Rome, coasted through the early rounds, before starting to encounter stiffer resistance from the likes of the promising young Spaniard, Nicolas Almagro, and the experienced David Nalbandian. Neither could deny him his place in the final.

Nadal dropped a set against Carlos Móya in round one, but looked invincible there after. Against Federer, whom he had beaten in four of their last five encounters, the 19-year-old sensation gave up the first set 6-7, losing the tie-break to love. But he came roaring back to take the next two 7-6, 6-4 before his opponent levelled matters by taking the fourth set 6-2. After five hours, Federer had two match points, but failed to convert either, forcing another tie-break. A 5-3 lead however, did not suffice, Nadal going on to reel off the next four points to claim the title. He has now equalled Guillermo Vilas’ record of 53 consecutive victories on clay, dating back to 1977, and will set a new maximum, if he overcomes Tommy Haas in Hamburg this week.

The British challenge petered out in round three, but not before Greg Rusedski had won two matches against Tommy Robredo, and Italian qualifier Sefano Galvani to regain his British number one ranking. Andy Rodick then proved too strong. Andrew Murray had been dumped out unceremoniously in round one, but Tim Henman got past Alessio Di Mauro and Thomas Johansson, before bowing out gracefully.

Martina Hingis continued her comeback trail in Berlin, seeing off the quarter-final challenge of Elena Dementieva 6-3, 6-2, before being edged out by Amelie Mauresmo. The French number one then went down 6-1, 6-2 to Justine Henin-Hardenne, who in turn, lost out in a three-hour final encounter to Russian Nadia Petrova.