Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal were the rivals in the semi-finals of the 2008 Olympics, fighting for a place in the final and a medal. Rafa prevailed 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in two hours and 11 minutes to stay on the gold medal course.
The Spaniard overcame the second set failure to deliver a late break in the decider to advance into title contention and beat Novak for the tenth time in 14 meetings. Thirteen days earlier, Djokovic ended Nadal’s streak of 32 straight wins and he looked good to defeat the Spaniard again after an impressive second-set performance in Beijing.
As a true champion, a soon-to-be world number 1. No. 1 Nadal upped his level again in the third set and crossed the finish line to have the gold medal fight against Fernando Gonzalez. Novak had more winners and unforced errors. He stayed in close contact with Rafa for up to four strokes, bringing him down in the most extended rallies to take four points more than his rival.
Still, it wasn’t enough to propel him over the top after an easy hold at love in the closing stages of the decider. Djokovic fended off three break chances in the opening game and fired an ace in game three to open a 2-1 gap.
Nadal broke at 2-2 with a forehand down the line and again in game seven thanks to Djokovic’s double fault for a massive advantage. Novak pulled a break back in game eight, holding to narrow the gap to 5-4.
Novak Djokovic lost to Rafael Nadal in three sets at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
Serving for the second time in game ten, Rafa held at 30 to win the opener and receive a massive boost.
Eager to leave everything on the court, Novak took charge in the second set and took a 3-0 lead. Two games later, he hit a service winner for a 4-1 advantage and looked good to extend the fight. The Serb broke again in game six with a backhand winner and fired another at 5-1 to end the set and gain a boost.
Both players served well in the first eight games of the third set, with more drama guaranteed for the remainder of the clash. In the ninth game, Nadal forced Djokovic’s error to take a 5-4 lead and extended the next. The Serb parried the first match point before the Spaniard converted the second after Novak’s terrible shot to celebrate a massive win and advance into the gold medal match.
“Losses are something you never wish for, but that’s part of the sport. I had a great tournament, reached the semifinals and played well despite ending on the losing side. I played aggressive tennis in the second set and splitting the first and third.
My game is all about that and I hope to capitalize on that tomorrow. It was a terrible mistake on the last point; You must win these without thinking. My legs stopped and people screamed during my smash shots. Now I have to force myself to think positively and do my best tomorrow.
I’m really happy when I win bronze; This is a special event that you will remember for the rest of your life. I expected Rafa to make a comeback and raise his level. That’s why he’s number 1. He’s been the best player this season and is mentally very strong.
When you win a set against Rafa 6-1, he wants to make a change and play at a higher level in the following set. I expected that and tried to keep my momentum and an aggressive approach. We both fought well in the last set until that tenth game when he broke me,” said Novak Djokovic.