The sold-out crowd at the Monte-Carlo Country Club was rooting for the underdog. Whenever Roger earned a break point on Nadal's serve, the din of applause increased. For all of Rafa's declarations that he was feeling no pressure, his errant forehand throughout much of the first set betrayed his words.
But Roger couldn't capitalize. Break point after break point, the tenative Swiss struck his forehand out.
The tension, palpable.
In the 9th game of the first set, Roger cracked, striking two errant forehands, an errant backhand and stared down the barrel of triple break point. He saved the first with a wide forehand approach and Nadal's trip over the linesman. But Roger's forehand beyond the baseline, his 7th unforced error in the last 8 points, gave Rafa the opportunity to serve for the first set.
But Rafa got tight. Both players shanked forehands. 30-30. Roger lost patience, snatched badly at a backand and Rafa had his first set point. A brilliant rally where Nadal turned defense into attack earned his forehand a short ball that it struck crisply, racquet head a blur, for a clean winner.
The Spaniard sat one set away from a hattrick of titles.