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. 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 2008 Basel semi-final, 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, as they stayed neck and neck all the time to provide one of the matches of the tournament already in the second round.
The first chance for the returners came in the sixth game after the Spaniard's forehand error. Lopez 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 and serving for the set.
The Swiss had four set points up for grabs, but none 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 break opportunity at 5-5, denied by Roger's ace.
The Swiss faced a set point at 5-6 in the tie break, repelling it with an ace and firing a forehand winner at 7-8 and 9-10 to remain in contention.
Roger Federer saved a match point in a thrilling victory over Lopez in Madrid 2011.
Federer 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 second set's eighth game and a set point at 4-5, hitting a service winner and leveling the score at 5-5 after a couple of deuces. 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 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 the rival's error 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 rival's mistake, with Lopez leaving empty-handed despite an incredible effort throughout the clash that lasted for almost three hours.