Resurgent Nalbandian stuns Federer in final

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The Independent Online

The unseeded Argentine David Nalbandian claimed a shock victory over world number one Roger Federer when he came from a set down to clinch his first Masters Series title with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 win here yesterday.

Nalbandian, who beat world numbers two and three, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, on his way to the final, became only the second player since Boris Becker in 1994 to beat the top three at the same event.

The Argentine, who has slipped from a top 10 slot to 25th in the rankings this season, looked out of it when Federer raced away through the first set. But he became the first player to crack the Federer serve this week when he broke in the second set and kept his nerve to level the match before taking advantage of some uncharacteristic errors by the Swiss to claim a famous victory.

It was Federer's first defeat since he lost to Djokovic in the final of the Montreal Masters in August and only his seventh loss of the year.

Federer had beaten Nalbandian in eight of their last nine meetings, including a 6-4, 6-0 win in the semi-final here last year, but the Argentine was the last man to beat the Swiss indoors when he won the Masters Cup in Shanghai in November 2005.

The world number one appeared to be on course for another win after making his customary polished start on the ultra-fast court at the Madrid Arena. He broke the Nalbandian serve in the fourth game after putting the Argentine under pressure with a superb backhand pass and again in the sixth with a fierce forehand drive as he wrapped up the first set in half an hour.

But just as the Swiss looked as though he might run away with it, Nalbandian fought his way back by breaking Federer's serve in the second game of the second set. The match was interrupted briefly when the watering system for the courtside flowers sprang a leak, but Nalbandian maintained his concentration and withstood some heavy pressure on his serve to take the set 6-3.

Federer looked uneasy at the start of the decider and gifted Nalbandian another break in the third game after two uncharacteristically loose shots that drifted beyond the baseline.

Nalbandian kept Federer on the ropes with some excellent serving and deep returns and broke again in the ninth game to claim the sixth ATP title of his career and make up for the disappointment when he lost against Marat Safin in the 2004 final.

l The world No 1 Justine Henin secured her ninth WTA title of the season yesterday, beating French teenager Tatiana Golovin 6-4, 6-4 in the Zurich Open final. The Belgian has won all but four of the 13 tournaments she has entered this year and is now unbeaten in 20 matches – her last loss coming against Marion Bartoli in July's Wimbledon semi-finals. Her victory also saw Henin improve on her previous best tally of eight titles won in 2003.