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:
Novak Djokovic cruises to victory on return to ATP Tour
Novak Djokovic blew past Spain’s Pablo Andujar 6-0, 6-3 on Thursday evening.
Juan Martin del Potro details heartbreaking injury struggles
Juan Martin del Potro continues to struggle with mobility issues post-retirement.
Iga Swiatek irritated by WTA Tour finals scheduling clash
An ‘irritated’ Iga Swiatek has bone to pick with the ITF and the WTA.
John McEnroe and Mats Wilander back Iga Swiatek to claim 10 Grand Slams
Is Iga Swiatek destined to be the next woman to win ten Grand Slams?
Race to Turin: Casper Ruud becomes third man to qualify
Casper Ruud joins Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz in the Turin field.
Cameron Norrie bullies Kaichi Uchida at Korea Open to end losing run
Norrie won 6-2 6-2 to set up a quarter-final against American Jenson Brooksby.
Rod Laver believes Wimbledon final has changed Nick Kyrgios
Nick Kyrgios could be ‘the guy’ in 2023.
Novak Djokovic reveals how he ‘creates an image of success’
Novak Djokovic is always striving to gain an edge.
Stefanos Tsitsipas social media post suggests he is still dreaming about Roger Federer
Tsitsipas has given a hint that he doesn’t want his weekend playing alongside the greats of the modern game to end.