November 19, 2005: the day Roger Federer scored the only double bagel in the history of the Masters Cup
On this day in 2005, Roger Federer didn’t put a foot wrong as he dismantled Gaston Gaudio in one of the most lopsided Masters semi-finals ever.
Every day Tennis Majors takes you back in time to celebrate a great moment in tennis history. Today, we go back to 2005 to witness how Roger Federer blanked Gaston Gaudio, 6-0, 6-0, in the semi-finals of the Tennis Masters Cup.
On this day, November 19, 2005, in the semi-finals of the Masters Cup, the undisputed world No 1, Roger Federer, achieved a unique feat in the history of the event, defeating world No 9, Gaston Gaudio, in less than 50 minutes – without losing a single game (6-0, 6-0). Despite the heavy domination of the Swiss at the time (he had lost only three matches in the entire season so far) and Gaudio’s known preference for clay, seeing such a one-sided match in the year-end tournament of the greats was more than unexpected.
At the end of 2005, Roger Federer, born in 1981, had become the world No 1, fulfilling the vast potential that many had seen in the young Swiss as a junior and fledgling pro. After he finished 1998 as world No 1 in juniors, Federer performed well in his first professional matches: in his five first main tour appearances, in 1998-1999, he reached the quarter-finals three times, in Toulouse, Marseille and Rotterdam. Federer’s mind-blowing game amazed, and it was a swift rise that took him to No 1.
The Swiss, very emotional during his first years on the tour, eventually mastered his nerves in 2003, when he claimed his first major title at Wimbledon (defeating Mark Philippoussis in the final, 7-6, 6-2, 7-6). A few months later, after triumphing at the Australian Open (defeating Marat Safin in the final, 7-6, 6-4, 6-3), he rose to No 1 on February 2, 2004. The Swiss had held that spot without a break since then. He already owned six Grand Slam titles: the Australian Open (2004), Wimbledon (2003, 2004, 2005) and the US Open (2004, 2005). So far, in 2005, the Swiss had accumulated 80 wins, and he had suffered only three losses, against Marat Safin, Richard Gasquet and Rafael Nadal. Federer had already won the Masters Cup in 2003 and 2004.
Gaston Gaudio, from Argentina, was born in 1978, and like many of his countrymen, he was a clay-court specialist. In his early years, Gaudio, nicknamed “El Gato” (“The Cat”), only claimed two ATP titles, each time on red dirt, and his best Grand Slam result was a fourth round reached at Roland-Garros in 2002. However, Gaudio’s career was about to change suddenly in 2004.
Ranked only world No 44 Gaudio became one of the most unexpected players to ever triumph at Roland-Garros. To achieve that feat, the unlikely champion won three five-setters, including a dramatic final against his countryman and heavy favourite Guillermo Coria, against whom Gaudio overcame a catastrophic start and saved two match points to finally defeat an opponent struck by cramps (0-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 8-6). Gaudio was the first male player in the Open era to win a Grand Slam final after having saved match points. This extraordinary victory gave him confidence and, in 2005, although he wasn’t able to defend his title in Paris (defeated in the fourth round by David Ferrer (2-6, 6-4, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4), he won five tournaments and climbed as high as world No 5.
Founded in 1970, the year-end Masters Cup was the final showdown between the eight best players in the world. Held in a different location every year at the start, it settled at the Madison Square Garden, in New York, from 1977 until 1989. Since then, the tournament had moved several times again: Frankfurt (1990-1995), Hanover (1996-1999), Lisbon (2000), Sydney (2001), Shanghai (2002), Houston (2003-2004), then back to Shanghai in 2005. As only the eight top players of the year qualify for the event, the list of its former champions is nothing short of impressive.
When Roger Federer faced Gaston Gaudio in the semi-finals of the 2005 Masters Cup, in Shanghai, he was more than the heavy favourite of the match. The Swiss had been almost invincible the entire year, accumulating 80 wins against only three losses. Furthermore, his opponent of the day was not really a fan of fast indoor surfaces. Each of the seven titles claimed by Gaudio were on clay, and, outside of Roland-Garros, where he had triumphed in 2004 to general astonishment, the Argentinian had never gone past the third round of a Grand Slam tournament. A year before, playing the Masters Cup for the first time, Gaudio had suffered three losses in the round-robin without winning a single set.
If many experts expected a one-sided match, no one could had foreseen that in such a prestigious event featuring only the very best players in the world, Roger Federer would be able to crush his opponent, 6-0, 6-0, in less than 50 minutes! The Argentinian didn’t seem to have properly recovered from his last round-robin match against Fernando Gonzalez, whom he had defeated 1-6, 7-5, 7-5, on the previous day. His serve was particularly affected, with four double faults in his first game and nine in total. Meanwhile, Federer hit 22 winners, against only three for Gaudio.
“No, no excuse,” said Gaston Gaudio in his post-match press conference. “I think that I was playing against a guy who is the best in history on a surface that he is so much better than me. There’s not much to say. (…) Sometimes, once in a life it happens, and it happens to me today. Today I think that I was serving bad, hitting the forehand bad, backhand bad. Everything was bad today. The first time that I make so many double-faults in a match. (…) The crowd was unbelievable during the whole week. And today maybe I couldn’t give them all the support that they give to me. But I couldn’t give them the show that they were expecting. I want to apologize. I don’t know, I want to say sorry to them that I couldn’t give anything.”
“It couldn’t have been better,” said Federer. “It gives me great confidence for tomorrow.”
In case of a final victory, the Swiss would be the first player to win three consecutive Masters Cups since Ivan Lendl in 1987.
On the following day, despite this outstanding performance, Federer would be defeated by David Nalbandian in the final (6-7, 6-7, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6). The Swiss would continue dominating the game heavily until 2008, the year when Rafael Nadal would put an end to his record 237-week uninterrupted reign at No 1.
Gaston Gaudio would never qualify for the Masters Cup again. The Argentinian would not even add another title to his list of achievements, quickly declining to the point where he would leave the top 100 once and for all before the end of 2007.