Rafael Nadal and Fabio Fognini squared off for the third time in the 2015 Hamburg final.


The Setting
 

From 2005 to 2014, Rafael Nadal managed to win at least one of the first three Grand Slams of the year. That streak came to an end in a season where the Spaniard looked more vulnerable than ever, one in which he slipped to No. 10 in the rankings.

After a second-round loss at Wimbledon, Nadal returned to clay at the Hamburg Open. Though the surface was one in which he dominated on for a decade, in 2015, it seemed his reign on the clay was somewhat suspect with a slew of unexpected losses. However, in Hamburg, vintage Nadal was on display: After dropping the first set of his opening match, he didn’t lose another on his way to the final.

In the championship match, he would face Fabio Fognini, who, that year, had accomplished one of the rarest feats in tennis: beating Nadal twice on clay. For his part, the fiery Italian was playing solid all week, taking his quarterfinal and semifinal matches in straight sets. 


The Final
 

After losing the first four times they played, Fognini surprisingly broke through against Nadal this year, rallying for a three-set win in Rio de Janeiro, then stopping him in straight sets in Barcelona, where Nadal was an eight-time champion.

In Hamburg, it was evident from the start that this match between past titlists was going to be a battle: The first game lasted 12 minutes with Fognini capturing the opening break. Exchanging breaks through the first four games, Nadal finally held to take a 3-2 lead. After fighting off two set points down 5-6 on his serve, Fognini couldn’t fend off another as Nadal ripped a return winner to take the opener.

In the second set, it appeared that Nadal would run away with the match as he broke early to take a 3-1 lead. Fognini showed he wasn’t done yet, though, as he broke back and eventually found himself serving to level the match. Nadal saved a set point off a backhand error from Fognini, then held to go up 6-5. As the Italian served to stay in the match, Nadal earned a championship point, then clinched it on his first opportunity to capture his third title of the year.

Notable Numbers
 

4

Playing in his 10th career singles final, Fognini lost his fourth to a Spaniard, having fallen to Tommy Robredo, David Ferrer and twice to Nadal.

11

This was the 11th consecutive season that Nadal won two or more clay-court titles in a season.

2008

The last time Nadal won a title in Germany before this year was 2008. Hamburg was his second of 2015 in the nation after winning in Stuttgart on grass before Wimbledon.

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