Madrid Flashback: Roger Federer loses to history-maker David Nalbandian

David Nalbandian was world no. 8 at the beginning of the 2007 season, reaching one quarter-final by October and dropping out from the top-20 after Roland Garros. Failing to advance into a Major quarter-final for the first time in six years and earning under 20 ATP wins, David traveled to Madrid eager to turn the tables and show his A-game. The Argentine had lost six of the last 11 encounters before Madrid, and he changed all that in the Spanish capital to conquer the first Masters 1000 crown! Nalbandian always liked to compete at this indoor event, advancing into the title match in 2004 and reaching the semis in 2005 and 2006. In that last campaign, Roger Federer toppled him 6-4, 6-0 and Nalbandian was determined to avenge that loss. David beat Roger 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 in an hour and 49 minutes on October 21 for the first notable title after the 2005 Masters Cup where he ousted Federer in a thriller.

David wrote history in Madrid, prevailing against Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in back-to-back encounters to follow Boris Becker (Stockholm 1994) and Novak Djokovic (Canada 2007) and score victories over all three world’s leading players at the same event. Nalbandian lost just three games in the quarter-final versus Rafael Nadal before overpowering Novak Djokovic in the semi-final and completing a perfect week with that triumph over Roger for the sixth victory against a great rival in 14 encounters. It was a mighty close battle, with both winning 78 points and facing five break chances. Nalbandian fended off three of those and grabbed three breaks to cross the finish line first after overcoming a slow start.

In Madrid 2007, David Nalbandian defeated Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.

Federer had more winners and more unforced errors, and a slight upper hand in the shortest points up to four strokes. The defending champion allowed David to forge the lead in the mid-range and more extended rallies that kept him in contention and carried him through. It was the first Madrid final in the best-of-three format, and Federer continued where he left against another South American, Fernando Gonzalez, a year ago. In the fourth game, he earned a break when Nalbandian netted an easy forehand and hit a double fault in the next one to face a break chance. The Swiss repelled it with a service winner but played against another when his forehand landed into the net. An ace put Roger away from the danger zone, and he held after three deuces to move 4-1 ahead. The Argentine sprayed a backhand error a few minutes later to offer Federer another break chance, saving it but getting broken on the next one thanks to Roger’s deep return.

Two service winners earned the set for Federer in the seventh game, moving 6-1 up after half an hour and looking good to wrap up another Madrid crown in style. Starting all over, David held in the second set’s first game with a service winner and forced two errors from Roger in the next one to grab his first break of the match. Finding the rhythm, the Argentine hit three service winners in the third game to confirm the advantage before the Swiss blasted a return winner at 2-4 to create a break chance that could have sent him closer to the finish line.

Staying calm, David erased it with a service winner and did the same with the second before closing the game with a volley winner. With no room for errors at 5-3, the Argentine returned from 30-0 down and finished the set with an excellent point at the net to gather a massive boost ahead of the decider. With momentum on his side, David grabbed a break in the final set’s third game when Roger sent a backhand long, taking the ball early and stepping in to take the time away from Federer’s shots. Nalbandian held at 15 in the sixth game to stay in front and sealed the deal with a volley winner at 5-3, breaking Roger for the third time and lifting the first Masters 1000 crown at 25. 

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