Rafael Nadal clinched his first Major title at Roland Garros in 2005 and became world No. 1. 2 shortly thereafter. Rafa had continued to work on his game and became world No. 1. 1 contender until 2008. Nadal won trophies in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Hamburg and Roland Garros that year, moving closer to Roger Federer.
Rafa improved his game on grass, conquering Queen’s and Wimbledon and extending his winning streak to 32 before Novak Djokovic stopped him in the Cincinnati semifinals. Nadal accumulated enough points to overtake Federer on August 18 and become world No. 1.
1 for the first time. Before that, the Spaniard traveled to Beijing as one of the gold medal favorites in men’s singles. He again delivered his best tennis to win another significant title in this historic season. Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic in three challenging sets in the semifinals after more than two hours and met Fernando Gonzalez in the duel for the gold medal.
After two hours and 23 minutes, Rafa toppled the Chilean 6-3 7-6 6-3 to secure Olympic glory. Nadal completed his outstanding performance in recent months, winning 38 games out of 39 to become a well-deserved world No. 1.
In Beijing 2008, Rafael Nadal defeated Fernando Gonzalez in three sets to win gold.
Nadal served well, repelling all four break points to keep his games intact. He pushed Gonzalez to the limit on the second serve and created ten break chances, converting two of them to move over the top in straight sets.
The Chilean did his best to keep the points on his racquet and control the pace with forehands flaming. However, it was not enough against the competitor, who avoided well-defended and unforced errors. Fernando has won the last two encounters against Rafa on hard courts, including a notable win at the 2007 Australian Open.
Still, he couldn’t repeat that against an in-form rival who played the best tennis of his career. Nadal started the encounter reliably, taking eight of the first ten points and pausing in game two when Fernando’s slice backhand landed long.
Gonzalez saved a set point in game eight with a fantastic forehand winner before Rafa sealed the deal 6-3 with a forehand down the line winner in the next. Nadal had no trouble on serve, absorbing the rival’s forehand like no other and taking the most powerful weapon from the Chilean’s hands.
Both players sailed through their holds in set number two and headed for the tie-break as Nadal went 5-6 down to the opener at love. Gonzalez blasted a forehand winner to take a 40-15 lead with two set points up for grabs.
Still, the Chilean missed a backhand volley on the first and a slight forehand on the second, sealing his fate in that encounter. Rafa finished the game with a forehand down the line to gain momentum ahead of the tie break, winning it 7-2 when Fernando sent a long forehand.
Gonzalez fended off two break points in the second game of the third set to avoid an early setback before Nadal broke him on serve next to go 3-1 with a backhand crosscourt winner. It was a one-person show in those moments, and there was nothing Gonzalez could do to stem the sinking.
He faced two more break points in game six and saved them to reduce the deficit. Suddenly, the Chilean got a chance to pull the break back after creating a couple of chances in the next game. Rafa fended them off with a forehand and a service winner, finishing the game with two more straight points for a 5-2 advantage.
Fernando deleted three match points on his serve in game eight to prolong the duel. Nadal crossed the finish line with another solid 5-3, forcing his rival’s error to start a massive celebration of one of his most prized titles.