Even though he beat the same Federer in Dubai on hardcourt earlier this season, Nadal - three weeks ago - still carried the label of clay court specialist.
After his show in the final, the 20-year old from Mallorca showed that his rivalry with Federer was here to stay all year round.

TENNIS 2006 Wimbledon Kendrick R. - Nadal R. 2nd round

Image credit: Reuters

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Take away the first set where a nervous Nadal had no answers to Federer's speed, it was a very closely-contested match between the two best players in the world and the Swiss had to pull out all the stops for a 6-0 7-6 6-7 6-3 win.
NADAL WITH THE EDGE
Turn the equation in the other direction and you'll find that same as Nadal is still improving on grass, Federer is gaining ground on clay.
Nadal has a 6-2 record in matches with the world number one, including four wins on clay. However in the Rome final this year, Federer had two match points, and in the French Open, the 24-year old native of Basel had Nadal on the ropes after the first set.
Since Nadal is only 20 and Federer 24, the Spaniard has time on his side.

TENNIS - 2006 Wimbledon - Federer v Nadal

Image credit: Reuters

His serve and his backhand can still be patchy at times and if those aspects of his game improve, Federer will have to quickly toughen up mentally against the only player on the circuit that seems to intimidate him.
LIKE MARTINA & CHRIS
What makes this rivalry so special is that the two are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field. Only the confrontations between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert can compare.
For sixteen years, Martina and Chris - less than two years apart in age - dominated the women's tour.

TENNIS - 2006 Wimbledon - Evert-Navratilova

Image credit: Imago

While today, the average shelf life of a tennis player at number one had shrunk to no more than Pete Sampras' six years, that still means that we can look forward to at least three more years of classic duels between Rafa and Roger.
MEET ME AT THE U.S. OPEN
The next stop will be in the United States and the good news is they're not doing anything to avoid one another before Flushing.
Both will play at the Canadian Masters in Toronto and Cincinnati, before the U.S. Open.
The Australian Open champion has not lost outdoors on hardcourt since January 2005 but Nadal has a 2-1 advantage on the surface.

TENNIS 2006 ATP Dubai Roger Federer Bjorn Borg Rafael Nadal

Image credit: EFE

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