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Nadal denies Federer’s shot at history

The Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia — Rafael Nadal held off Roger Federer in another five-set Grand Slam final, keeping Pete Sampras’ record of 14 major titles intact for now.

Nadal became the first Spanish man to win the Australian Open, beating Federer 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-2 in a momentum-swinging, 4-hour, 22-minute final that finished just after midnight on Sunday.

Federer, trying to equal Sampras’ record, sobbed at the trophy presentation.

"Maybe I’ll try later. God, it’s killing me," Federer said, crying. He returned to congratulate Nadal within minutes, saying: "You deserved it. You played a fantastic final."

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Top-ranked Nadal, who has won five of the seven Grand Slam finals they’ve contested, now has a major on hard courts to go with his titles on clay and grass.

He’s the only man capable of a Grand Slam this season, 40 years after Australian great Rod Laver last won all four majors in one season.

"Roger, sorry for today. I really know how you feel right now," Nadal said. "Remember, you’re a great champion, you’re one of the best in history. You’re going to improve on the 14 of Sampras."

Nadal collected the trophy from Laver, on the court that was named in the great Australian’s honor, and put his arm around Federer.

"To receive this trophy from Rod Laver is a dream for me," he said. "Rod, thanks very much. It was an amazing two weeks for me."

Nadal advanced to the final after holding off fellow Spanish left-hander Fernando Verdasco on Friday in 5 hours, 14 minutes — the longest match in the tournament’s history.

Federer had a straight-sets win over Andy Roddick the previous night, but said the difference in preparation had no influence on the final.

He said the fact he’d missed the Sampras record at a tournament he’s won three times didn’t make the loss any worse or easier to take.

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"Honestly, no," he said. "I mean, it’s more like, in the first moment you’re disappointed, you’re shocked, you’re sad, you know, then all of a sudden it overwhelms you."

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