World number-one Roger Federer of Switzerland has ended his run for the best season-record just one win short, after losing the final of the China. David Nalbandian of Argentina battled back from a two-set deficit Sunday to defeat Federer, 6-7, 6-7, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 in a four-and-a-half-hour marathon.
This was not the result the tennis world was expecting, but it could be the making of David Nalbandian. He didn't even qualify for this event, only got in because of injuries, but finishes the year sixth and in tears after one of the most remarkable fightbacks of the year, which will surely erase the memory of all the withdrawals.
"Today I think I played very well from the beginning, and then to win like this is really incredible," he said. "The way is just incredible. Of course it gives me a special feeling to win like this. I prefer that the year keep going and not end like this. I prefer playing more tournaments now."
Federer looked to have broken Nalbandian's resistance when he took a two-sets lead on a 13-1 second set tiebreak. But Nalbandian bounced back to win the third, and from one-all in the fourth reeled off nine straight games to lead four-love in the decider.
Federer looked totally out of gas, but found something from somewhere, got back to four-all, and then broke in the 11th game to serve for the match. At 6-5, 30-0 it looked a formality, but Nalbandian broke back to decide the Tennis Masters Cup on a tiebreak. Nalbandian's nerve held, he was never behind in the breaker, and sealed victory in four hours, 34 minutes of quality tennis when Federer netted a backhand.
It means Federer finishes the year on 81 wins out of 85 matches, one win short of John McEnroe's record total from 1984, but still a phenomenal year for a man who continues to write the record books.
"Yeah, there is a source of pride in there of course," he said. "Because three weeks ago I was still on crutches, and now to be back playing at the best level I'm very, very happy about that. I mean I came much closer than I ever thought I would come to this tournament victory. But, you know, unfortunately in the end..."
The doubles was won by Fabrice Santoro and Michael Llodra of France, but apart from the pair's entourage, noone will talk about that after such a singles final.