Whoever was watching the Saturday’s game, where Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal clashed for the No. 2 spot, could witness the true mastery of tennis. In a three-hour match packed with amazing returns, smashing forehands, and nine game breaks, Nadal managed to come out on top and defeat Djokovic 2-1 (7-5, 2-6, 6-2).
The final game seemed to last forever, and only after the 9th deuce did Nadal succeed in breaking away from the relentless Serbian, who simply wouldn’t give in to the Spaniard.
Djokovic had too many chances that he didn’t take advantage of, especially with break points, which he only won four out of 19 (21% success), and out of those 19, eight were in the third set. Furthermore, the Serb dropped a 3-0 lead in the first set, and ended up losing it 7-5.
This is not the first time that Djokovic made these kind of mistakes in important matches. Recall the 2007 US Open final versus Roger Federer, when Djokovic had numerous set points (at one point, he had a 0-40) that were wasted due to bad returns. In the end, Federer won the match in straight sets.
Nadal, on the other hand, was able to use his chances in the best way possible, converting five out of nine break points (56%) and defending splendidly against Djokovic’s attacks. He found his rhythm halfway through the third set, took a 4-2 lead, and made a break in the next game.
The final game of the third set lasted for over 10 minutes, in which Djokovic was able to get four break point chances, but didn’t manage to surprise Nadal.
Nadal still remains undefeated versus Djokovic on clay, currently holding a 4-0 record. The Spaniard has also improved his all-time match-up record against Djokovic to seven wins and three losses.
The Saturday’s victory will prolong Nadal’s 147-week run at the No. 2 ATP Ranking. The Spaniard will play in the Hamburg Masters final versus No. 1 Roger Federer tomorrow. The match will be a splendid prelude to the French Open, which begins May 25th.
As for Novak Djokovic, he will have to wait for another opportunity to become the world’s number 2.