|The defeat was only Federer’s seventh of the season [Reuters]|
Unseeded David Nalbandian claimed the notable scalp of Roger Federer in coming from a set down to win the Madrid masters series title.
The Argentinian’s 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory capped a memorable week in which he also beat Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to become only the second player since Boris Becker in 1994 to beat the world’s top three players at the same event.
Nalbandian has slipped out of the world’s top 10 slot to 25th in the rankings this season and looked out of it when Federer raced away through the first set in Sunday’s final.
But he became the first man to crack the Federer serve this week when he broke in the second set and kept his nerve to level the match before taking advantage of some uncharacteristic errors by the Swiss to claim a famous victory.
It was Federer’s first defeat since he lost to Djokovic in the final of the Montreal Masters in August and only his seventh loss of the year.
Federer had beaten Nalbandian in eight of their last nine meetings including a 6-4 6-0 win in the semi-final here last year, but the Argentine was the last man to beat the Swiss indoors when he won the Masters Cup in Shanghai in November 2005.
“I was very focused, knowing I’d have to play incredibly to win and everything went right for me,” said Nalbandian. “It was a big boost for me to beat so many good players here this week.”
Federer admitted he had been unable to hold the Argentine in the final two sets.
“I guess when you beat Nadal and Djokovic back-to-back you come into the final feeling better than ever,” said Federer. “It was a pity I couldn’t stop him today.
“He played well and came back strong and he was the better player all in all.”
The match was interrupted briefly when the watering system for the courtside flowers sprang a leak, but Nalbandian maintained his concentration and withstood some heavy pressure on his serve to take the second set 6-3.
Federer looked uneasy at the start of the decider and gifted Nalbandian another break in the third game after two uncharacteristically loose shots that drifted beyond the baseline.
Nalbandian kept the pressure with excellent serving and deep returns and broke again in the ninth to claim the sixth ATP title of his career and make up for the disappointment when he lost to Marat Safin in the 2004 final.
|Nalbandian will hope the win sets hin on the direction back to the top 10 [AFP]|