Paris Flashback: Rafael Nadal experiences a bagel against David Nalbandian



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Paris Flashback: Rafael Nadal experiences a bagel against David Nalbandian

After missing the last Masters 1000 tournament in the previous few seasons, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal finally decided to enter the Paris draw in 2007. Roger Federer fell in the third round to David Nalbandian, while Nadal reached the final on his debut, entering only his second ATP title match on an indoor surface after conquering Madrid Masters in 2005.

Nalbandian and Marcos Baghdatis were unseeded players who did a lot of damage in the draw to reach the semis, and Nadal and Nalbandian were the players who advanced into the final on November 4. The Argentine scored a comprehensive 6-4, 6-0 triumph in 70 minutes to lift his second Masters 1000 crown in three weeks after celebrating in Madrid, wrapping up a perfect indoor fall at the Masters 1000 events!

David was above all the rivals under a roof in Madrid and Paris, beating Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer twice and toppling Novak Djokovic to complete his fantastic run, leaving the opponents mighty relieved when he failed to reach the Masters Cup!

The 21-year-old Nadal had already won 23 ATP titles, but indoor events were never his cup of tea, with Paris standing as only his second indoor ATP final after celebrating in front of the home fans in Madrid two years earlier.

They never played before 2007, and those two encounters in Madrid and Paris came in the perfect moment for an in-form Nalbandian, something we couldn't tell for Nadal, who won his last title in July on clay. The Spaniard would win the next five clashes they played but was beaten badly by the Argentine in those indoor Masters, winning just seven games overall!

After that terrible Madrid loss, it seemed that Nadal had found the solution to at least challenge David in Paris, only to drop the last nine games of the match and fall against the picture-perfect tennis that Nalbandian threw at him.

Everything worked well for David, including the serve, movement, ball striking, anticipation and return, leaving Rafa with no proper answer and storming towards the title in no time. Nalbandian lost seven points in eight service games - he won the last 18 points behind the initial shot - facing no break chances and standing in the league of his own on the return.

He grabbed almost half of the points in Nadal's games, taking 13 out of 16 when the Spaniard would miss the first serve and gaining the edge in the rallies to dominate the scoreboard. The Argentine delivered a textbook shotmaking to keep the points on his racquet and take time off Nadal's strokes, preventing Rafa from imposing his rhythm.

Nadal couldn't deal with the pace of the opponent's shots, as David forced a lot of errors or short balls that he would immediately turn into his favor, mainly with his lethal forehands that left Nadal in ruins. The Argentine made 20 errors but erased that with many winners, eager not to let Nadal control the rallies and taking the ball early to stay aggressive from start to finish.

In 2007 Paris Masters final, David Nalbandian defeated Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-0.

Nalbandian had 11 service winners in comparison to seven from Nadal, demolishing the Spaniard in the winners from the court department after hitting 19 - 14 from his forehand alone - against only four from Rafa.

They had a similar number of unforced errors (10-9 for David), but Nadal made no less than 17 forced mistakes while Nalbandian stayed on ten, another proof of how well the Argentine placed his shots and opened the court. Nadal tried to impose crosscourt exchanges and mount pressure on the rival's backhand, which didn't work either.

David made only 11 errors from his backhand wing, forcing ten mistakes from Nadal's forehand to take away the advantage from world no. 2. Nalbandian had a significant advantage in the shortest rallies up to four shots thanks to a solid serving and the initial groundstrokes that did a lot of damage, taking 37 out of the 53 points in that range.

He was 9-7 up in the mid-range points from five to eight strokes and 11-8 in the most extended rallies to outplay Nadal in virtually every segment and lift the title in style. They kicked off the match in a strong fashion, with three service winners for each in the first two games before Nadal held at 1-1 after taking a 14-stroke rally and blasting a smash winner.

David was in the zone right from the start and had three winners in game four to level the score at 2-2, surviving deuce in game six to stay on the positive side. The Spaniard played well in the longer points in game seven to remain in front, already winning more games than he did in the entire match in Madrid two weeks ago and grabbing a 17-stroke rally in the next one to move 30-15 ahead.

David returned with two winners and closed the game with an ace, dealing with a deuce for the second time in a row on serve. Out of sudden, he became the only player on the court after rattling off the last 18 points in his games, pushing Nadal to the limits on the return to win the final nine games of the clash!

At 4-4, Nadal sprayed three errors, and David clinched the first break with a return winner, moving 5-4 ahead and serving for the opening set. He opened it with two longer rallies, and Rafa made a forced error in the last point, allowing Nalbandian to take the set 6-4 in 39 minutes.

Without rhythm and momentum, Rafa got broken at the beginning of the second set, unable to endure the barrage fire from the other side of the net and giving the serve away after a volley winner from David, who continued his charge.

Nalbandian increased his lead to 2-0 with three winners, leaving Nadal without a proper answer once again and looking strong on the court. The third game proved to be the longest of the encounter, and Rafa wasted a 40-0 lead to give his serve away once again, falling deeper and deeper and reducing the possibility to make a turnaround.

Pumped and focused, Nalbandian held at love in game four to increase his lead after a forehand winner and three errors from Nadal, who was just an observer now. Determined to finish the job in the quickest possible time, David broke again in game five with two winners, getting a chance to serve for the title.

He fired two service winners and sealed the deal with his 14th forehand winner to wrap up an impressive triumph in just 70 minutes against powerless Nadal, who could only congratulate his rival for an extraordinary level that he produced.