Rafael Nadal was the second strongest link on the tour in 2005, 2006 and 2007, constantly improving his game and challenging Roger Federer for the ATP throne. The Spaniard shifted into a higher gear in 2008 and became world No. 1.
1 in August, dethroned Roger after four and a half years and began his reign. Nadal conquered a “Channel Slam” in Paris and London to gain momentum before claiming the Masters 1000 crown in Toronto. Rafa lost the Cincinnati semifinals to Novak Djokovic after 32 straight wins and they were among the favorites at the Beijing Olympics.
Rafa defeated Potito Starace, Lleyton Hewitt, Igor Andreev and Jurgen Melzer to find himself in the semifinals of the Olympic event. He faced another debutant, Novak Djokovic, in contention for the final and a medal. It was their 14th meeting on the tour in the last two years and Nadal defeated Djokovic for the tenth time after a 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 triumph in two hours and 11 minutes.
Novak got four points more than Rafa thanks to this sovereign second set. Still, it wasn’t enough to carry him over the top as Nadal prevailed with a late break in the decider. Djokovic had more winners and unforced errors, staying in touch with Rafa in the shortest range up to four shots and beating him on the more extended rallies.
Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the Beijing Olympics.
Novak cleared three break points in the opening game to avoid an early setback, stopping with an ace on 15 in the third game to stay ahead. The Spaniard grabbed a break at 2-2 with a forehand down the line and another at 4-2 after Djokovic’s double fault.
The Serb pulled a break back in game eight with a forehand down the line, holding at love to reduce the deficit to 5-4. Rafa served for the set for the second time in game ten, holding at 30 to wrap up the opener. Novak upped his level in the second set, extending a 3-0 lead.
Djokovic landed a service winner to make it 4-1 and grabbed another break in the next with a backhand winner at the net. The Serb served 5-1 for the set and fired a backhand for the 6-1 winner on the line and a boost before the decider.
Both players served well in the first eight games of the third set, with more drama guaranteed for the remainder of the clash. Nadal forced Djokovic’s mistake in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead, surviving Novak’s game point in the next to extend it.
The Serb parried the first match point before Nadal converted the second after Novak’s terrifying shot to celebrate a massive win and advance into the gold medal match.