After consistent results in notable tournaments over the last 15 months, Novak Djokovic had a chance to become world No. 1. Second place in Hamburg for the first time in 2008. In the semifinals against the sand king Rafael Nadal, Djokovic gave everything in a 7: 5, 2: 6, 6: 2 defeat after three hours and three minutes.
Rafa prevailed in the decider with a strong performance, although he had to dig deep for every point to emerge at the front and stay on course for the title. Nadal picked up just five points more than Djokovic, fending off 15 of 19 break chances to stay in touch.
The Spaniard crossed the finish line with five returns to his credit, bouncing back after the second set and going ahead. Two big rivals met a similar number of winners and Novak stood above Rafa in the forced errors department.
Nonetheless, the Serb squandered that lead in the unforced error segment, spraying too many of them, often at the crucial moments, to propel the Spaniard into the title fight against world No. 1. 1Roger Federer. The match continues under the Center Court roof and Novak created his first break chances in the second game with a volley winner.
He forced the Spaniard’s error into an early break and found a good rhythm. Djokovic found his reach and placed a forehand down the line in game three to cement the advantage, winning 14 of the opening 18 points.
Nadal trailed 30-0 in game four, looking powerless against a determined opponent. Rafa erased two break chances and brought the game home to get his name on the scoreboard. Novak wasted game points at 3-1, losing serve when Rafa landed a forehand down the line.
Novak Djokovic kept Rafael Nadal on the pitch for over three hours in Hamburg 2008.
Nadal secured a break point in game six, holding 15 at 3-4 to remain on the positive side. The Spaniard broke serve in the ninth game and serves for the set.
Ready for a fight, the Serb broke back at 15 after a drop shot winner that extended the set. Rafa stayed focused, placing a forehand down the line in game 11 and firing another on serve in the next game to take the opener 7-5 after a grueling 72 minutes!
Djokovic saved two break chances in game five of set number two, bringing them home with Nadal’s forced error. That gave him momentum and a break in game six for a 4-2 advantage. Novak caused another error from Rafa in game seven before claiming a break at 15 at 5-2 to seal the set in style.
Nadal started from the start in the final set, painting a short backhand crosscourt winner for an early break in the opening game. The Spaniard fended off two break chances in the second game and held after a forehand error from the Serb.
Djokovic missed further break chances in the fourth game, which Nadal grabbed with a winner at the net to lead 3-1. Both players held at love in games five and six before Rafa broke in game seven after Novak’s wild forehand.
The eighth game saw eight deuces and helped the encounter reach the three-hour mark. Nadal saved three break points and grabbed the fifth match point when Djokovic’s dropshot failed to cross the net to start a massive celebration.
Novak was disappointed with the loss but knew he was close to beating Rafa on the slowest surface. “It was unfortunate that it ended in defeat for me but I have to take the positive out of the game. I feel like with this performance and the game in general I get closer to Rafa on clay and hopefully next time too. ” I can win once,” said Novak Djokovic.