Unexpected winners of the Madrid Open
The Madrid Open has been a significant event in the tennis calendar since its introduction to the men’s tour in 2002 and women’s tour in 2009.
The clay court ATP Masters 1000 and WTA 1000 event has been won by just two unseeded singles players – one man and one woman.
Here, Tennishead looks at the two unseeded players to win the Madrid Open:
Aravane Rezai – 2010
Aravane Rezai came into the Madrid Open ranked No. 22 in the world and without a WTA title to her name. Her first round draw looked to present a tough encounter, facing former world No. 1 and four-time Roland Garros champion Justine Henin.
Rezai achieved a huge upset in defeating the Belgian, winning from a set down 4-6, 7-5, 6-0. Rezai then dispatched qualifier Klara Zakopalová, Andrea Petkovic and seventh seed Jelena Jankovic, all without dropping a set, to reach the semi-finals.
Rezai faced Lucie Safarova in the last four, taking the first set 6-1 before her Czech opponent was forced to retire from the match. The final pitted Rezai against fourth seed Venus Williams and would be yet another test for the Frenchwoman.
It did not appear that way though, as Rezai defeated the elder Williams sister in straight sets, 6-2, 7-5, winning the tournament without dropping a set after her first set in her first match against Henin.
Rezai reached a then career-high 16th in the world after the event before slightly bettering that position to reach world No. 15 in October the same year. Madrid remained Rezai’s highest level tournament win, while she claimed three lower level events later in her career.
David Nalbandian – 2007
While David Nalbandian had previously reached a career-high ranking of world No. 3 in 2006, the Argentine came into the 2007 Madrid Masters ranked 25th in the world.
In 2007, the Madrid Open was still an event played on indoor hard courts, with the switch to clay only happening from 2009.
Nalbandian came from a set behind to defeat each of his first two opponents, Arnaud Clement and ninth seed Tomas Berdych respectively. He then dispatched fellow countryman and 19-year-old wildcard Juan Martin del Potro before facing world No. 2 Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals.
The score turned out very one-sided, with the Argentine winning out 6-1, 6-2. Nalbandian then faced world No. 3 Novak Djokovic, defeating him in straight sets also, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).
In the final, Nalbandian would face his toughest match yet in the form of world No. 1 Roger Federer. The Swiss was too good in the first set, taking it 6-1. But Nalbandian stuck it out, levelling the tie with a 6-3 second set. He then won the final set 6-3 to secure the victory and the championship to claim his first Masters 1000 level title, in the process becoming only the second male player ever to defeat the top-3 consecutively in one tournament since Boris Becker achieved the feat at Stockholm 1994.
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