Madrid: A victory over Rafael Nadal in a clay court final has Roger Federer feeling good about his chances going into the French Open.
It's not the first time.
Federer broke a sluggish Nadal once in each set in a 6-4, 6-4 win on Sunday that earned him a second Madrid Open title. It was the second-ranked Swiss player's first title of 2009.
With Roland Garros a week away, the victory over four-time defending French Open champion Nadal is sure to provide a big boost for Federer.
"At this stage it does, considering I hadn't won a tournament yet," this season, Federer said. "It's all finally paying off but it's not the moment to get carried away. I'm very excited going to Paris whereas a couple of weeks ago I was still a little bit unsure about my game."
But Federer had similar feelings two years ago, after he beat Nadal on clay at Hamburg to snap the Spaniard's record 81-match winning streak on the surface.
After that win, Federer said he'd figured Nadal out ahead of Paris. But he then lost the ensuing final in four sets. Last year he lost the French Open final to Nadal in straight sets.
"I know what I have to do but that doesn't make it easy," Federer said on Sunday.
Nadal, meanwhile, was only thinking about the first week at the French — a long way ahead of any rematch with Federer.
"Federer has the potential to win at Paris and at any site in the world. He's showed that throughout his career. But Paris begins with the first round, not the final," Nadal said. "If I was told now that I can play the final against him, show me the paper and I'll sign."
In 2006 and 2007, one loss to Nadal was all that stood between Federer and a season Grand Slam — wins in all four majors.
The situation is different approaching Roland Garros this year. For a start, Nadal is ranked No. 1, having ended Federer's 237-week stint atop the men's rankings by winning the Olympic gold medal at Beijing in August.
And Nadal has also beaten the 13-time Grand Slam winner in the finals at Wimbledon and the Australian Open.
The loss at Melbourne Park in January left the 27-year-old Federer in tears. He did go some way to rebounding from that in Madrid by ending Nadal's 33-match winning streak on clay and denying him a sixth title for 2009.
Nadal, with an imposing 25-2 record in clay court finals, said the Madrid result would have little influence on the upcoming major.
"To me, this tournament has nothing to do with Paris. This tournament is practically another surface compared with Paris," said Nadal, who wasn't at his best following a record 4-hour semifinal win over Novak Djokovic. "There are points on normal clay that aren't points but they are here. The conditions favored him more than me."
Nadal said he was "empty" after Madrid and that he needed a few days to recover ahead of Roland Garros. His right knee, which has troubled him since November and acted up again on Saturday, was OK.