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On This Day: David Nalbandian completes the first and only Big 3 sweep
The now-retired Argentine is still the only player to ever beat Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at the same tournament, achieving the feat at Madrid in 2007.
Published Oct 21, 2020
On October 21, 2007—13 years ago to this day—David Nalbandian pulled off the first and still only Big 3 sweep, beating Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at the same tournament.
It all went down at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Madrid (then called the Tennis Masters Series), which was held on indoor hard courts in the fall at the time, and began with Nalbandian stunning No. 2 Nadal in 71 minutes in the quarterfinals, 6-1, 6-2. He then edged No. 3 Djokovic in the semifinals, 6-4, 7-6 (4), getting the only break of the day in the third game of the match and fighting off set point late in the second set to close it out in straights.
“He deserves to be in the final, that’s for sure,” Djokovic told Reuters afterwards. “He won against Rafa and a lot of good players this week, so obviously he had a lot of confidence, and you could see that.”
Nalbandian completed the sweep by beating No. 1 Federer in the final, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, dropping the first set in just half an hour, but breaking early in both the second and third sets en route to victory.
"I was very focused, knowing I would have to play incredibly to win, and everything went right for me," the Argentine said. "It was a big boost for me to beat so many good players here this week."
“He’s had a great tournament, beating the best players this week,” Federer said. “I guess when you beat Nadal and Djokovic back-to-back, you come into the final feeling better than ever.
“It was a pity I couldn’t stop him today.”
At the time, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic weren’t the ‘Big 3’ yet—the Swiss was a 12-time Grand Slam champion, but the Spaniard only had three majors at the time, and the Serb didn’t have any. But since then they’ve become the three most accomplished men in tennis history, and Nalbandian’s feat in the Spanish capital in 2007 remains the only time anyone’s beaten them all at the same event.
Amazingly, Nalbandian almost repeated the feat two weeks later at another Masters 1000 event in Paris, beating Federer in the third round, 6-4, 7-6 (3), and Nadal in the final, 6-4, 6-0. He could have faced Djokovic in the semifinals, but the Serb lost his opening match that week to Fabrice Santoro.
Two years later, Nikolay Davydenko very nearly pulled off the feat at the 2009 ATP Finals, barely falling to Djokovic in his first round-robin match of the week, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, but then defeating Nadal in his second round-robin match, 6-1, 7-6 (4), and outlasting Federer in the semifinals, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.
Two more players came within a win, too: David Ferrer at the 2007 ATP Finals (beating Djokovic and Nadal in the round-robin stage but falling to Federer in the final) and Tomas Berdych at Wimbledon in 2010 (beating Federer and Djokovic in the quarters and semis but falling to Nadal in the final).
But Nalbandian at Madrid in 2007 remains the only time it's ever happened. Will it happen again?