Federer rallies to beat Berdych in Madrid final

MADRID — Roger Federer won the Madrid Open for the third time Sunday, rallying past Tomas Berdych 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 on the new blue clay court and overtaking Rafael Nadal for the No. 2 ranking.

On the women’s side, Serena Williams overpowered top-ranked Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 6-3 to capture the title. Azarenka, who had won her four previous tournaments, was so exasperated she smashed her racket to the ground.

Federer prevailed in a tournament in which top-ranked Novak Djokovic and Nadal had already been eliminated, both blaming the court their early exits.

“It is amazing to win here again,” said Federer, whose other titles came in 2006 and 2009. “It has been a tough tournament. Tough to move, but you’ve got to try to make the most of it. Here there was some good tennis and some bad tennis, but you see that in all tournaments.”

Federer defeated an opponent who had beaten him in three of their previous five matches. Berdych hit 14 winners and made just two unforced errors in a dominant first set.

The Swiss star, however, found his ground game, breaking twice to even the score and force the decisive third set. He finally won after Berdych saved three championship points.

The sixth-seeded Berdych jumped to a 3-0 lead after hitting a crosscourt return to take Federer’s first service game. Federer saved two set points before Berdych clinched the first set with a big serve.

Federer struggled with his shots, but the 16-time Grand Slam winner evened the match by breaking twice in the second set, once when Berdych double-faulted on set point.

“Tomas played very well,” Federer said. “I’m sure we will see each other many more times and they will be quality matches like this one.”

Berdych was in control most of the way but became erratic as the pressure grew in the deciding set. Serving to send the match to a tiebreaker, he fell behind 0-40. He rallied to force deuce, only to hit long and then net his final volley to end the match in just more than 2½ hours.

“He showed that he is really the star,” Berdych said.

In a match between two of the tour’s heaviest hitters, Williams battered Azarenka with her big serves and fierce returns to take the first four games.

“I can still do better,” said Williams, who took a yearlong absence because of illness in 2011. “This is really good. I have been working hard. I had some tough battles and really unfortunate circumstances so I really love this.”

Williams served 14 aces on her way to avenging her only loss in six previous meetings with Azarenka. The 13-time Grand Slam winner was beaten by the Belarus star in the 2009 final in Miami.

Williams won the 41st title of her career and second this season. She is unbeaten in her last 13 matches on clay. Azarenka had won her four previous tournaments.

Williams broke in Azarenka’s first service game when the Australian Open winner could only stab her stinging returns into the stands. William’s strong start left Azarenka shaken, and she committed three double-faults to cede her serve again and trail 3-0.

The flustered Azarenka netted a forehand after Williams had fallen on the slick surface and left the entire court open. She then produced another double-fault to conclude a dreadful first set.

Williams kept the momentum going, hitting her fifth and sixth aces to hold for love at the start of the second set.

As her frustration boiled over, Azarenka smashed her racket moments before Williams blasted a return by her to break her again. Williams sealed the victory in 64 minutes with her final ace.

“I want to congratulate Serena for a great week,” Azarenka said. “She did a great job.

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