Nalbandian Masters Federer to End 2005 Season

Posted on November 21, 2005

Masters Cup substitute David Nalbandian ended a slew of Roger Federer records Sunday in the final of the Masters Cup in Shanghai, coming from two sets down to defeat the hobbled Swiss 6-7(4), 6-7(11), 6-2, 6-1, 7-6(3) in what will go down as one of the greatest if not most dramatic finals in the history of the year-end championship.

After edging the first two sets in tiebreaks, the front-running Swiss looked on his way to a straight-set victory before the Argentine's game went up another notch to force breaks for a 6-2 win in the third set. In the fourth set Federer called a trainer for a thigh rubdown after his movement seemed hindered, and actually tanked the set after going down 1-4 to conserve energy for the inevitable fifth.

While he started the fifth set with a noticeable jump in his step, Nalbandian nevertheless controlled the tempo to run to a 4-0 lead. It was then that the real drama began, with the Swiss claiming five straight games as the Argentine faltered, but then failed to serve out the match at 5-4. Play progressed to a tiebreak where Federer's problems getting a first serve in the box combined with Nalbandian's aggressive returning gave the Argentine his country's first year-end title since Guillermo Vilas in 1974. The match ended on the 72nd unforced error from the Swiss.

"It's very, very important," said the 23-year-old Nalbandian, who previously won only one title this year at Munich, on how the match bodes for future big occasions. "When I played Lleyton Hewitt in the Wimbledon finals, I was 20 years old, different. I was a little bit nervous, and I couldn't play my best...I know that he wasn't hundred percent for the ankle, that his preparation wasn't the perfect one. I felt in the beginning of the third when he didn't play so well, that I had my chance in there. I had to keep going, to keep fighting, and play the most important match that I do during the year. I left everything on court."

Federer said the foot pain wasn't as bad as the foot and body fatigue in the end.

"Not real pain, but real big, big fatigue," Federer said. "I mean, the foot, obviously, was never at 100 percent the whole tournament long, but that actually didn't bother me. I mean, still can move better than I did this whole week, I know that. So that was already a little problem for me...With the legs, that was what killed me because I couldn't push off, I couldn't stand the long rallies, I couldn't serve the way I wanted to. It really made things hard."

The loss ended the Swiss' chance for a third consecutive Masters Cup final, the chance to tie John McEnroe's Open Era-record 82-3 season from 1984, and broke his 24 consecutive streak of wins in finals and 35-match win streak since losing to Rafael Nadal at the French Open.

In the doubles final Frenchmen Llodra-Santoro outlasted Paes-Zimonjic 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-6(4) for their fourth title of the year.