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“Overall, I don’t think I was playing good enough,” said Federer, who won the Madrid Open last week. “Plus, I was a bit tired. I’ve been playing a lot lately.”

Djokovic called it his “best match on clay this year.”

“I felt really good on the court,” he said. “I was returning really well, and always making him play one extra shot.”

Nadal struggled with his backhand but overcame a difficult first set to post his 11th consecutive win on clay over Ferrer.

Nadal won clay titles in Barcelona and Monte Carlo this year before losing in the third round on an experimental blue surface in Madrid last week.

“(It’s the) best thing possible (for me) after a fantastic time in Barcelona and Monte Carlo. To keep playing in (a) clay tournament and then in the final without losing a set is something fantastic,” Nadal said. “We can forget the tournament of Madrid — that wasn’t clay.”

With Ferrer picking on his backhand and winning most of the long rallies early, Nadal needed to save seven break points to hold his opening service game.

“(In) the first set it was unbelievable how David set the (tone) with amazing rhythm and aggressive (shots),” Nadal said. “The thing that I tried to do was to keep the score close.”

The first set was decided by just two key points. Early on in the tiebreaker, Ferrer was up a mini-break and in control of a point when he attempted a drop shot that landed in the net. Nadal then took control when he ran down a difficult half volley from Ferrer.

Of Nadal’s 20 unforced errors in the first, 15 were off backhands.

Sharapova controlled her match with aggressive baseline play, leading 27-9 in winners against the 12th-seeded Kerber.

“It feels good coming back to the place where you have accomplished so much and to be in the position to regain that position,” Sharapova said. “I’m happy how I’ve progressed.”

Sharapova has won three of her last five titles on clay, beating top-ranked Victoria Azarenka in the Stuttgart final last month to add to her titles in Rome last year and Strasbourg the year before. The French Open, which starts next weekend, remains the only Grand Slam the Russian has yet to win.

“The most important thing is physically feeling stronger on the court and handling longer rallies and I recover better,” Sharapova said of her clay-court game. “I have improved a lot in that department.”

At 24, and just a year younger than Sharapova, Kerber won her first career title at the Paris Indoors this year, then took another title in Copenhagen. The German will break into the top 10 for the first time when the WTA rankings are updated on Monday.

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