November 1, 2007: The day when Nalbandian did the double over Federer in Paris

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On this day in tennis history, the Argentine beat the world No 1 for the second time in 11 days en route to lifting the Paris-Bercy title.

What happened exactly 

On this day, November 1, 2007, 11 days after he had already defeated the world No 1 in the final of the Madrid Masters 1000, David Nalbandian beat Roger Federer a second time in the round of 16 of the Paris Masters 1000 (6-4, 7-6). The Argentinian confirmed his great form after he had become the only player to ever beat Federer, Nadal and Djokovic in the same tournament in Madrid. In Paris, he would also lift the trophy, defeating Nadal in the final (6-4, 6-0). 

The players involved

David Nalbandian was born in 1982 and was one of the most gifted players of his generation, displaying a very smooth technique and a wonderful two-handed backhand. Very successful as a junior, he made himself famous in 2002, when he reached the Wimbledon final at the age of 20, defeated by Lleyton Hewitt (6-1, 6-3, 6-2). The following year, he lost to Andy Roddick in the US Open semi-final (6-7, 3-6, 7-6, 6-1, 6-3), and in 2004, the Argentinian made his way 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).  In 2006, Nalbandian became one of the few players to have at least reached the semi-final in every Grand Slam, when he reached the semi-final at the Australian Open (defeated by Marcos Baghdatis, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4). 

Considered as one of the best players to have never claimed a Grand Slam title, he struggled with injuries most of the year in 2007. World No 8 at the start of the year, he was only No 25 in October when  he became the third player of the Open Era to beat the three best players in the world (Nadal, Djokovic and Federer) consecutively to win the Madrid Masters 1000.

Roger Federer, the Swiss genius, then aged 26, was world No 1 without a break since February 2, 2004. Since 2003, he had won twelve 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, he claimed twelve titles including three Grand Slams, the Masters Cup and four Masters Series. He had a record of 92 wins and only 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:  he lost against 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) and 2007 (6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4). He had started 2007 by winning the Australian Open without dropping a set, beating Fernando Gonzales in the last round (7-6, 6-4, 6-4). He then had a peculiar Indian Wells/Miami swing where he lost twice against the same player, Guillermo Canas from Argentina, who was coming back on the tour after being suspended for using a banned substance. 

Back in shape in 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 again in the final. The Swiss took his revenge upon the lefty 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

The Paris-Bercy Indoor Open was established in 1986. Held each year 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. Amongst former champions were great stars like Boris Becker (1986, 1989, 1992), Andre Agassi (1994, 1999), Pete Sampras (1995, 1997)  and Marat Safin (2000, 2002, 2004). 

The facts

At the 2007 Paris Open, the round of 16 between Roger Federer and David Nalbandian was highly anticipated since the draw. In fact, Nalbandian had beaten Federer in the final of the Madrid Open (1-6, 6-3, 6-4) before clinching the title, and, in this last week of the regular season, he was under the spotlight. If he was to win the tournament in Paris, the Argentinian could still qualify for the Masters Cup, while Federer wanted to take his revenge after his loss in Madrid.

In his first rounds, Nalbandian had already made a strong impression, beating Nicolas Almagro and Carlos Moya in straight sets (6-4, 6-4). Meanwhile, Federer, who, as a seeded player, had played only one match, had lost a set against the 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 he could not prevent his opponent from sealing the first set, 6-4.

In the second set, the Argentinian served for the match at 5-4, but the Swiss fought back and pushed him into a tie-break. This was not enough to wrongfoot a firing Nalbandian, who won the tie-break (7-3) to propel himself into the quarter-finals (6-4, 7-6). 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 unbelievable two weeks before, when he was No 25 on the ATP charts.

“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,” commented Federer.

What next 

David Nalbandian would go on to claim the Paris title, defeating Rafael Nadal in the final, 6-4, 6-0. Despite these amazing feats, 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 last 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 a Grand Slam. In 2012, he would be defaulted in the final of the Queen’s Club Championships after unfortunately kicking a linesman in a burst of anger. Nalbandian would retire in October 2013.

The two players would face each other three more times before Nalbandian’s retirement, and Federer would prevail each time.

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