MADRID: Rafael Nadal clinched a record-breaking 18th career Masters title on Sunday when he defeated old rival Roger Federer 6-2, 7-6, 7-5 in the Madrid final, landing a powerful psychological French Open blow in the process.
The Spaniard, who reclaimed the world number two ranking on Monday, became the first man to claim three major clay titles prior to the start of Roland Garros while victory also gave him an 18th Masters trophy, one more than Andre Agassi and two ahead of Federer.
A year ago, Federer defeated Nadal in the Caja Magica final, and then carried the victory momentum to Roland Garros where he lifted his first title at the venue with a defeat of Robin Soderling to complete a career Grand Slam.
Nadal now heads to Paris with all guns blazing as he bids to wipe out last year's fourth-round loss to Soderling and resume his trophy chase after winning the first four editions he played in the French capital.
"Winning here at home is a dream," said Nadal, who took the victory honours over the past weeks in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would win all three of these big events," added the Spaniard, unbeaten this clay season with 15 consecutive victories.
Nadal, now with 39 titles to his name, leads Federer 14-7 in career meetings, winning ten of their last 12.
He now stands 28-2 in claycourt finals, his two losses coming at the hands of Federer, including Madrid a year ago.
Federer said that despite his loss, "the clay court season will not be judged here but in Paris.
"We will see what happens in three weeks. I feel I'm ready for Paris. I felt a major improvement in my game compared to last week when I came here from Estoril.”