Rafael Nadal won the fourth consecutive Roland Garros crown in June 2008, losing just four games to Roger Federer to extend his dominance in Paris. That was no longer news, but what changed compared to previous years was that Rafa carried the form onto the grass and hard courts.
A few weeks later, the Spaniard won his first title on the fastest surface at Queen’s. He bested Novak Djokovic in the final before capturing the first Wimbledon crown in that memorable final against Roger Federer that lasted almost five hours.
Three weeks later, in Toronto, the Spaniard lifted the trophy for his fifth consecutive title since Hamburg, becoming a real contender for the ATP throne held by Roger Federer since 2004. Rafa didn’t have much time to celebrate his Canadian crown and headed to Ohio to compete at the Cincinnati Masters.
Nadal wished for a more reliable run than previous years in one of the fastest events on the calendar. Rafa capitalized on a favorable draw, defeating Florent Serra, Tommy Haas and Nicolas Lapennti to advance to the semifinals where he faced world No. 1.
3Novak Djokovic. It was already the 13th meeting between these two youngsters. Nadal had won the previous nine, including triumphs in Hamburg, Roland Garros and Queen’s in recent months. Still, the Serb edged out Nadal at Indian Wells in March and hoped for more at Cincinnati, being a much better player on the fast hard court.
Djokovic delivered a rock-solid performance to topple Nadal 6-1, 7-5 in an hour and 26 minutes and end the Spaniard’s career-best streak of 32 straight wins! Nadal had already secured his position on August 18 before the match to replace Federer at the top of the ATP rankings.
Still, he wanted to stay on the road to success and add the missing title to his collection, only to be denied by a strong rival. Djokovic struggled to find the first serve, especially in the first set.
Novak Djokovic ended Rafael Nadal’s streak of 32 straight wins in 2008.
Still, there was nothing wrong with his first shot as he overwhelmed the great rival from the baseline with aggressive and deep groundstrokes.
Novak took the ball early and kept the points on his racquet. He had a clear advantage on rallies up to six shots, 48-36, forcing short changes, not letting Nadal extend the action and executing his shots. On the second serve, the Serb scored 19 out of 25 points.
This element made the difference as he only had one break chance throughout the encounter and kept the pressure on the other side. On the other hand, Nadal offered the Serb four break chances and saved one as he failed to send the match into a decider after being broken three times.
Rafa significantly increased his level in the second set. In the closing stages, however, he missed his first defeat since early May and Rome! Novak started the encounter with a hold at Love. He broke Nadal in the second game without dropping a point, returning well and taking a time-out from the Spaniard’s shots.
Rafa hit a double fault in game four, giving his rival another break chance and allowing Novak to go 4-0 up the line with a forehand. Djokovic’s groundstrokes were on fire and he pinned another backhand winner that put him 5-0 up, demolishing Rafa from the baseline and keeping everything under control.
The Spaniard finally got his name on the scoreboard in game six before Djokovic sealed the opening set with another reliable 6-1 after 26 minutes. Rafa started playing better in the second set, found some fantastic winners and saved easier than in the first part of the duel.
Novak also sprayed more errors and offered Rafa a break chance in game six after a loose forehand. The Serb saved it with a good forehand attack in an 18-stroke rally, leveling the score to 3-3 with two service winners, refusing to give his opponent momentum.
Rafa held at love in games seven and nine to keep the pressure on Novak. The Serb stayed focused in those crucial moments to stay on the positive side. Novak found some good returns at 5-5 to break Rafa at 15 and open a 6-5 gap.
Serving for the win in Game 12, Djokovic fired three winners to wrap up the encounter and advance to his first Cincinnati final.