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November 1, 2007: The day Nalbandian defeated Federer for the second time in 11 days
On this day in tennis history, Nalbandian defeated Federer at the Paris Masters to keep his chances of qualifying for the 2007 ATP Finals alive
What exactly happened on that day?
On this day, November 1, 2007, 11 days after he had already defeated Roger Federer in the final of the Madrid Masters, David Nalbandian toppled the world No1 for a second time in the round of 16 of the Paris Masters (6-4, 7-6). The Argentine continued his great run of form after he had become the only player to ever beat Federer, Nadal and Djokovic in the same tournament in Madrid. In Paris, he also went on to lift the trophy, defeating Nadal in the final (6-4, 6-0).
The players: David Nalbandian and Roger Federer
- David Nalbandian: the talented Argentine considered one of the best to never win a Grand Slam
David Nalbandian was born in 1982 in Cordoba, Argentina and was one of the most gifted players of his generation, displaying a very smooth technique and a lethal two-handed backhand. After a very successful junior career, he made himself famous in 2002 by reaching the Wimbledon final at the age of 20, losing to Lleyton Hewitt (6-1, 6-3, 6-2).
The following year, Nalbandian lost to Andy Roddick in the US Open semi-final (6-7, 3-6, 7-6, 6-1, 6-3) and in 2004, the Argentine made his way to the final four at Roland-Garros (lost to Gaston Gaudio, 6-3, 7-6, 6-0). He won the most important tournament of his career at the Masters Cup in 2005, defeating Roger Federer in the final (6-7, 6-7, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6). The following year, Nalbandian became one of the few players to reach the semi-final in every Grand Slam, when he reached the semis at the Australian Open (defeated by Marcos Baghdatis, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4).
Considered by many as one of the best players to have never won a Grand Slam title, Nalbandian struggled with injuries for most of the 2007 season. Ranked No 8 at the start of the year, he was ranked 25th in October when he became only the third player in the Open Era to beat the top three players in the world consecutively as he beat Nadal, Djokovic and Federer to win the Madrid Masters 1000.
- Roger Federer: The Swiss Maestro who already owned 12 Grand Slam titles
Roger Federer, the Swiss maestro, then aged 26, had been world No 1 without a break since February 2, 2004. He had already won 12 Grand Slams: the Australian Open (2004, 2006, 2007), Wimbledon (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007) and the US Open (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007). In 2006, his best year yet on the tour, he claimed 12 titles including three Grand Slams, the Masters Cup and four Masters Series. He compiled a record of 92 wins against just five losses, four of these against his only serious rival at the time, Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard was the main reason Federer hadn’t won the French Open yet: the Swiss had lost to him in the semi-final in 2005 (6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3), and in the final in 2006 (1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6). Federer began 2007 by winning the Australian Open without dropping a set, beating Fernando Gonzalez in the final (7-6, 6-4, 6-4). He then had a strange Indian Wells/Miami swing where he lost to the same player, Guillermo Canas, the Argentine who was coming back on the tour after being suspended for using a banned substance.
Back in form by spring, Federer triumphed in Hamburg, defeating his Spanish nemesis on clay for the first time in the final (2-6, 6-2, 6-0), but at the French Open, Nadal beat him once again in the final (6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4). The Swiss took his revenge upon the left-hander at Wimbledon, where he prevailed in the final after a five-set battle (7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-2), and he secured his No 1 spot by triumphing at Flushing Meadows, defeating Novak Djokovic in the final (7-6, 7-6, 6-4).
The place: Bercy, France
The Paris-Bercy Indoor Open was established in 1986. Held annually in early November, it was usually the last tournament on the tour before the Masters Cup and the Davis Cup finals. One of the most prestigious indoor events in the world, it became a part of the Super 9 category (the former name of the Masters 1000) in 1990. Former champions at this event included legends such as Boris Becker (1986, 1989, 1992), Andre Agassi (1994, 1999), Pete Sampras (1995, 1997) and Marat Safin (2000, 2002, 2004).
The facts: Nalbandian wins in straight sets
At the 2007 Paris Open, the round of 16 clash between Federer and Nalbandian was highly anticipated ever since the draw had been released. The Argentine had just beaten Federer in the final of the Madrid Open (1-6, 6-3, 6-4) en route to winning the title and, in this last week of the regular season, he was in the spotlight. If he were to win in Paris, the Argentine could still qualify for the Masters Cup, while Federer wanted to avenge his loss in Madrid.
In the early rounds, Nalbandian had already made a strong impression, beating Nicolas Almagro and Carlos Moya in straight sets. Meanwhile, Federer, who had received a bye in the first round as a seeded player, had played only one match in which he needed three sets to beat Croatian giant Ivo Karlovic (6-3, 4-6, 6-3).
Nalbandian made a great start, opening up a 5-2 lead. Federer managed to save five set points but could not prevent his opponent from winning the first set 6-4.
In the second set, the Argentine served for the match at 5-4 but the Swiss fought back and pushed him into a tiebreak. This was not enough to wrongfoot a firing Nalbandian, who won the tie-break 7-3 to win 6-4, 7-6 and propel himself into the quarter-finals. Nalbandian was now one of the few players tying Federer in their head-to-head (8-8). Mathematically, he could still qualify for the year-end Masters Cup, which would have been unthinkable two weeks earlier, when he was No 25 in the ATP rankings.
“Of course, it’s disappointing to lose to a guy two times in a couple of weeks, especially indoors, one of my favourite surfaces, but we knew the qualities of David,” Federer said after the match.
What happened next? Nalbandian wins Paris title
David Nalbandian would go on to win the Paris title, defeating Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-0 in the final. Despite this incredible run, he would not qualify for the year-end Masters Cup, a tournament he had won in 2005, finishing the year as world No 9. It would be his final season finishing in the top 10. Struggling with motivation, not as fit as in his prime, Nalbandian would never beat a top 3 player again, nor would he reach the quarter-finals of another Grand Slam and would eventually retire in October 2013.
The two players would face each other three more times before Nalbandian’s retirement, and Federer would prevail each time.
Federer would go on to become the first player to break Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Majors and would eventually end his career with 20 Grand Slams when he hung up his racquets at the age of 40 in September 2022.