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:
Rafael Nadal claims 299th Grand Slam match win at Roland Garros
Rafael Nadal dominated his French Open first round match against Jordan Thompson.
John McEnroe reveals how Iga Swiatek and Serena Williams are alike
Will Iga Swiatek become the sixth women to claim ten or more Grand Slams in the open era?
Naomi Osaka considers skipping pointless Wimbledon
The former world number one says she is ‘leaning more towards not playing’.
French Open: Iga Swiatek extends streak to 29, Naomi Osaka bows out
World No 1 Iga Swiatek is looking forward to some sightseeing after dispatching Lesia Tsurenko in short order.
Tennis365’s live scores and results centre: Follow the French Open here
Aaaaand it’s live! Follow the action from Roland Garros…
Goran Ivanisevic insists Novak Djokovic isn’t Roland Garros favourite
Goran Ivanisevic says as long as Rafael Nadal is in the French Open field there can be no other favourite.
French Open: Dominic Thiem feels ‘pretty far away from a win’ after exit
The former world number three, a finalist at Roland Garros in 2018 and 2019, bowed out in straight sets.
Carlos Alcaraz proofs French Open title credentials with dominant first-round victory
Carlos Alcaraz powers into the second round at Roland Garros.
Alexander Zverev keeps French Open match short and sweet, but hopes to go from stable to winning titles
“I’m always somebody that likes to win, rather than be stable,” says Zverev.
Cameron Norrie says Wimbledon will be ‘like an exhibition’ as he warns a few top players might not play
British No 1 has his say on consequences following decision to strip Wimbledon of ranking points.