Roger Federer was among the players to beat in Caja Magica between 2009-11, fighting for the titles with Rafael Nadal and becoming the first champion of this event on clay ahead of the Spaniard. In 2010, Roger lost in the final to Rafa and was ready to chase another trophy a year later, opening the campaign against Feliciano Lopez.
It was their first meeting since the semi-final in Basel 2008 and Roger delivered the eighth victory in as many matches against the Spaniard, prevailing 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 after two hours and 56 minutes! We saw 48 aces on fast Madrid clay between two attacking players and only two breaks from 11 opportunities, staying neck and neck all the time to provide one of the matches of the tournaments already in the second round.
The first chance for the returners came in the sixth game after a forehand error from the Spaniard who saved it with a booming serve to avoid the setback and level the score at 3-3. Federer was in a better rhythm, though, firing a backhand down the line winner in the eighth game to open a 5-3 lead, serving for the set in the next game.
The Swiss had four set points up for grabs but none of them worked for him, with Lopez repelling them all to pull the break back and prolong the set. With the momentum on his side, Feliciano created another opportunity for a break at 5-5, denied by an ace from Roger who had to save a set point at 5-6 in the tie break.
He did that with an ace and there were forehand winners from his racquet on set points for the Spaniard at 7-8 and 9-10, staying close to each other in the first 20 points after no mini-breaks! Roger saved another set point at 11-12 before he finally earned a mini-break at 13-13 following a forehand winner, sealing the set on his ninth (!!) set point with a service winner after 70 minutes.
Federer survived a break chance in the eighth game of the second set and a set point at 4-5, hitting a service winner and leveling the score at 5-5 after a couple of deuces to send the pressure to the other side of the net.
Lopez was the better player throughout the set and he showed that in the tie break, hitting two winners on the return and three more on his serve to forge a 5-0 advantage. Federer sprayed a backhand error at 1-6 to hand the set to his opponent who had a massive boost ahead of the deciding set after a flawless performance in the last 50 minutes.
At 2-2 in the final set, Roger earned three break chances with a backhand winner, squandering those and another one before Lopez brought the game home for a crucial hold and more drama and excitement. They both served well in the remaining games to set another tie break where Lopez moved 3-1 up after a backhand crosscourt winner.
A service winner sent the Spaniard 5-2 in front, looking strong on the court and standing two points away from the finish line. Feliciano missed a smash in the next point and that would turn out to be the most expensive shot of the entire encounter, as Federer forced an error from the rival to climb back to 5-5.
The Swiss sent a backhand wide in the next point to offer a match point to the Spaniard, saving it with an ace and earning a mini-break at 7-7 when Lopez netted a backhand. Federer sealed the deal a minute later after another mistake from the rival who left empty-handed despite an incredible effort throughout the clash that lasted for almost three hours.