13 Years On: Nadal and Federer's Epic 2006 Rome Final
A reflection on the anniversary of the marathon 2006 Rome championship match
Meeting for the first time at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, Federer entered the match eager to avenge recent final losses to Nadal in Dubai and Monte-Carlo. But the Spaniard was keen to keep a grip on his title, which he won in a dramatic fifth-set tie-break against Guillermo Coria in 2005. On 14 April 2006, Nadal successfully navigated another winner-takes-all tie-break to retain his crown after five hours and five minutes, defeating Federer 6-7(0), 7-6(5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(5).
Bidding to lift his first title in the Italian capital, Federer dictated points with regular net approaches. The then-World No. 1 won more points than Nadal (179 to 174) throughout the contest, but it was the 19-year-old who came out on top when it mattered most.
Holding two championship points at 5-6, 15/40, in the final set, Federer failed to find the court with two forehands on Nadal's serve. That proved crucial, with the Manacor native escaping danger to reach a tie-break, where he claimed his fifth win in six FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against the Swiss.
As a result of his five-set win, Nadal tied Guillermo Vilas’ Open Era record of 53 straight match wins on clay and improved his tour-level finals record to 16-2. Federer left the Italian capital with a 39-3 record in 2006, with all three losses coming against Nadal in ATP Tour championship matches.