MADRID–David Nalbandian became the third player since 1994 to defeat the world’s top three players in consecutive matches after defeating No. 1 Roger Federer 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 to win his first ATP Tenis Masters Series title in Madrid Sunday. In doing so he salvaged a disappointing season by his high standards: The Argentinean-Armenian had reached just one quarterfinal this year coming into Madrid.
But after rallying from a set down in his opening two matches (d. Clement, Berdych), Nalbandian played his best tennis game of the season, defeating Juan Martin del Potro in straight sets in the third round, World No. 2 Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals before snapping a four-match losing streak against No. 1 Federer in the final.
Djokovic defeated the world’s top three players (No. 3 Roddick, No. 2 Nadal and No. 1 Federer) in consecutive matches to claim the Montreal Masters title earlier this year. Boris Becker was the only other player to achieve the feat (Stockholm, 1994) in recent times.
Nalbandian also joined Djokovic as the only player to beat Nadal and Federer in the same tournament. Nalbandian claimed just his second victory in his past 10 meetings with Federer, who leads their series 8-7 despite losing their first five encounters.
Nalbandian won his sixth ATP title and first since Estoril last year. He is 6-7 in career finals but has won the past four finals he has contested. Before Madrid Nalbandian’s run to the Barcelona quarterfinals (l. to Ferrer) was his only quarterfinal of the year.
Adding 100 points to his ATP 2007 Race total, Nalbandian will jump from No. 33 in the Race to the low 20s with 255 points. That will leave him 74 points behind No. 8 Tommy Haas and with a mathematical chance of qualifying for the eight-man Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai.
Appearing in his seventh consecutive final, Federer slipped to 55-7 on the year after seeing his 18-match winning streak broken. It was his first loss this year after winning the first set.
By reaching the final Federer virtually assured himself of finishing the year-end No. 1 for the fourth consecutive year. He holds a 204-point lead over No. 2 Rafael Nadal, who is not playing next week. Federer is the top seed in Basel.
Nadal can gain a maximum of 250 points in his final two events – the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris and Tennis Masters Cup. Federer can earn 50 points if he wins the Basel title, which would give him an unbeatable 254-point lead.