T365 Recall: When David Nalbandian caught a big fish and beat Roger Federer in 2005
The 2005 Tennis Masters Cup appeared to be there for the taking for Roger Federer, but David Nalbandian made the most of his late entry to snatch the title away from the Swiss Maestro.
Federer came into the season-ending tournament on the back of another vintage year as he won two Grand Slams, four Masters 1000 titles, two ATP 500 events and three ATP 250 trophies.
Oh, he also reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open and Roland Garros and finished the year as the No 1, but he did head to Shanghai with concerns over his ankle as he had missed several weeks due to injury.
Nalbandian, meanwhile, won only one tournament and entered via the backdoor after a couple withdrawals.
“I was ready to go fishing because as a substitute (in the tournament) there was almost no chance that I would be going to Shanghai,” he explained a few years later. “It ended up being an unexpected and incredible tournament.”
They met in the round-robin stage and the Argentine, who enjoyed an 5-3 head-to-head record against the Swiss before the tournament, made the two-time defending champion work for his win as the world No 1 won 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
The semi-finals were straightforward for both men as Nalbandian saw off Nikolay Davydenko 6-0, 7-5 while Federer demolished Gaston Gaudio.
It was no surprise that it was the Swiss who was the clear favourite heading into the final.
Although Nalbandian gave as good as he got in the opening two sets, it was the favourite who took a two-set to love lead after winning two tie-breakers.
But then came the comeback of all comebacks as Nalbandian dropped only three games in the next two sets to level things at 6-7 (4-7), 6-7 (11-13), 6-2, 6-1.
And he took the momentum into the decider as he opened up a 4-0 lead, but then it was Federer’s turn to hit back and he somehow found himself two points from winning at 6-5.
Nalbandian, though, wasn’t to be denied as he forced the tie-breaker and ended up winning 6-7 (4-7), 6-7 (11-13), 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) in four hours and 33 minutes.
The Argentine’s victory brought an end to Federer’s 35-match winning streak and it meant he finished the 2005 season with an 81-4 record.
For Nalbandian, postponing his fishing trip meant he won the biggest title of his career and he joked: “Roger, don’t worry, it’s not your last final. You’re going to win a lot of tournaments, so let me keep this one.”
He added: “I surprised the world. He almost never loses. To come back from two sets down against the world number one, with his record, it is just incredible.”
More from Tennis365:
WATCH: Carlos Alcaraz’s ankle heavily swollen after fall at Rio Open
It was a painful one for Carlos Alcaraz in Rio.
Distraught Carlos Alcaraz gives injury update after Rio retirement
Carlos Alcaraz retired hurt from his first-round match in Rio.
Patrick Mouratoglou’s academy accused of ‘giving substances’ to junior players amid Simona Halep saga
“I played at the Mouratoglou Academy. It is true, from a young age, athletes are given some substances.”
Andy Murray ‘proud’ as he snaps losing streak despite injury scare
“The last few months have been really tough on the court for me.”
Stan Wawrinka sends Rafael Nadal ‘danger’ warning and makes French Open claim
“He has won so many times at Roland Garros that he will always be the favourite.”
Jannik Sinner gives telling insight into his champion mentality with Australian Open revelation
“I immediately thought about how I could improve further. I asked myself why I ended up down two sets to zero.”
Juan Carlos Ferrero highlights difference between coaching Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev
“With Carlos, I was able to cook a player who already obviously had impressive characteristics.”
What Aryna Sabalenka’s shock Dubai defeat means for WTA Rankings battle with Iga Swiatek
Iga Swiatek looking comfortable at No 1 in the WTA Rankings after Aryna Sabalenka’s defeat.
Jannik Sinner asked if he is currently ‘the one to beat’ in tennis
Jannik Sinner names his four main rivals and talks about his world No 1 prospects.
Rafael Nadal gives big hint that he is ready to return to action after latest injury setback
Rafael Nadal looks set to return to action in a couple of weeks.