MADRID – Roger Federer defeated world number one Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-4 to win the Madrid Masters on Sunday and strike a timely blow in his campaign to lift an elusive French Open.
His win ended a five-match, 18-month losing streak against the Spaniard, a run which included three Grand Slam finals - the 2008 French Open and Wimbledon, as well as this year's Australian Open.
It also halted Nadal's 33-match winning streak on clay, a sequence stretching back over a year to the Rome second round in 2008.
Federer fired two aces, his fifth and sixth of the 88-minute final, to wrap up the victory and lift his record in finals against his Spanish rival to 5-11.
Federer now heads into the French Open, which starts next Sunday, with a huge confidence boost after finally defeating the man who stripped him of his Wimbledon title last summer.
"Clearly I'm very happy to win," said Federer. "I played well - you have to against Rafa on clay. There are no easy ways to beat him. I mixed it up well, served well and was dangerous on the return game.
"I took all the right decisions. In the end it looked very comfortable, it was a perfect win.
"It's not like a relief, I was so close to him at Melbourne and Wimbledon. But I always kept the belief that I could beat him again. That's what you need on this kind of surface, I stayed positive.
"I've had some bad losses this year but everything is starting to fall into place, it's the right time to get a victory like this."
Nadal, who had won claycourt titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome this spring, was visibly jaded from his semi-final on Saturday when he needed over four hours to defeat Novak Djokovic.
It was a match too far the top seed who was unable to squeeze motivation or power out of a weary body after complaining of problems with his knees in that marathon encounter.
The second-seeded Swiss fired 25 winners against just 12 for Nadal.
The 13-time Grand Slam title winner Federer broke twice while Nadal was unable to convert on any of his four break chances.
Sunday's result gave Federer his seventh career win against the world number one compared to 13 defeats. It was also his 58th title.
"I think this (fast clay) favoured Roger," said Nadal, who has won nine of 11 clay meetings against his rival.
"He deserved this victory more than I did. He played well. I wasn't able to play aggressively enough."
Nadal and Federer, who have contested the last three French Open finals, both head to Paris with the Spaniard hoping to regain his powers after playing and winning for three of the last four weeks on his favoured surface.
"It didn't help that I had to play four hours yesterday," said Nadal.
"But even if I hadn't I don't know if I would have been able to stop Roger."
Federer won 585,000 euros (790,000 dollars) and a car as he extracted some revenge in the pair's first meeting since the Australian Open final five months ago which ended with him reduced to tears.
Nadal still leads Federer 11-5 in finals, including wins in the last three at Roland Garros.
The Spaniard's defeat was only his fifth on clay over 155 matches dating back to 2005.