Madrid Flashback: David Nalbandian beats Djokovic and faces Roger Federer

Despite winning only one small ATP title in 2006, David Nalbandian spent the entire year in the top-10, backed by the Masters Cup title from 2005 and a couple of significant results during the mentioned season. David lost in the semi-final at the Australian Open, Miami, Rome, Roland Garros, Madrid and the Masters Cup, unable to make that extra step and fight for the title at those events. David kicked off the next season as world no. 8 but did not perform as the top-10 competitor in most of 2007. The Argentine had fewer than 20 wins after the US Open, hoping for a better run in the year’s closing tournaments and defending a place in the top-30. Instead, the Argentine found his best tennis to conquer indoor Masters 1000 events in Madrid and Paris, scoring five wins over Federer, Nadal and Djokovic and finishing the season in the elite top-10 company.

With only one quarter-final before Madrid, David returned to the Spanish capital eager to continue where he left in the previous seasons, playing for the title in 2004 and in the semi-final in the following two editions. Hungry for more, Nalbandian toppled Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal to advance into the fourth consecutive Madrid semi-final, where he faced world no. 3 Novak Djokovic on October 20. A few months earlier, Djokovic won their first clash at the Canada Masters in straight sets and could not repeat that in Madrid after Nalbandian prevailed 6-4, 7-6 in an hour and 45 minutes to set the title clash against Roger Federer. The Argentine saved both break chances to keep his serve intact and mount the pressure on the other side of the net with five break opportunities on his tally. Novak did well to defend four of those, suffering one break in the opening set and staying on level terms with the opponent in the second before falling in the tie break and missing a chance to fight for the third Masters 1000 crown that year.

In Madrid 2007, David Nalbandian defeated Novak Djokovic in the semis.

David had more winners and fewer errors, imposing his shots against one of the world’s best baseliners and building confidence for the title match against Roger Federer, who toppled him in the semi-final a year ago. It was a shaky start for the 20-year-old Serb, fending off a couple of break chances in the first game with service winners and bringing it home to avoid an early setback. He could not repeat that in the third game when David broke at 15, and the Argentine increased the advantage to 3-1 with four winners in game four. With poor body language and no rhythm, Novak played against a couple of break chances in game five, fending them off with two service winners and bringing it home with a volley winner. That gave him some energy ahead of the next game, and he created the first break chance that David saved with a service winner, landing two more to bring the game home and move 4-2 up.

In the seventh game, the Argentine fired three winners and closed the first part of the match with three winners in game ten for 6-4 after 44 minutes. Having to raise his level, Novak started playing better in his service games in set number two, staying on the level terms with David and creating a set point with a forehand down the line winner at 6-5. Nalbandian denied it with a strong attack and made a crucial hold to set up a tie break. The Argentine grabbed a mini-break in the first point and placed a backhand winner to gain a 4-1 advantage before creating four match points after Novak’s double fault in the eighth point. Nalbandian converted the third with a service winner at 6-4 to advance into the final and set Roger Feder clash. 

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