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Nadal’s Memorable Marathon Win Against Djokovic In Hamburg

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Nadal saved 15 of 19 break points to scrape past the Serbian

The ATP Head2Head rivalry between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal has developed into one of the classic rivalries in tennis history. But early on in their careers, the budding stars typically played relatively one-sided matches.

It wasn’t until their 10th meeting — in the 2008 Hamburg semi-finals — that they went to a deciding set for the first time.

Djokovic was the No. 3 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings, and the Serbian led the ATP Race To London. Earlier in 2008, he had earned his first Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open and his first clay-court ATP Masters 1000 title in Rome. Although Nadal had won their first three clay-court matches without losing a set, Djokovic was playing the best tennis of his career. The winner would leave Hamburg as World No. 2.

The moment brought the best out of both stars, with Nadal ultimately triumphing 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 in a three-hour, three-minute marathon.

“It was unfortunate it finished as a loss for me but I have to take the positives out of the match,” Djokovic said, according to Eurosport. “I feel that with this performance and the match in general I am getting closer to him on clay and hopefully next time I can get a win.”

The final-set scoreline makes it seem like Nadal found another level — which he did — and simply ran away with the third set. But the 6-2 score is deceiving, as Djokovic battled until the very end. It was a back-and-forth affair, with the last game lasting more than 15 minutes and Nadal needing five match points to break through. The lefty saved 15 of 19 break points.

“It was an amazing match,” Nadal said according to Eurosport. “I am a little bit tired right now, so let’s see how I feel tomorrow.”

Nadal went on to beat Roger Federer in the championship match, avenging a loss against the Swiss in the 2007 Hamburg final.

Shortly thereafter, Nadal claimed his fourth Roland Garros crown and his first Wimbledon trophy, ascending to World No. 1 for the first time in August.

Djokovic completed his breakthrough season by winning the Tennis Masters Cup and remaining World No. 3 through the entire year. After losing his first nine clay-court matches against the Spaniard, Djokovic finally beat Nadal on the surface in the 2011 Mutua Madrid Open final.

The Hamburg match was a sign of things to come. When playing well, Djokovic and Nadal bring the best out of each other, with grinding baseline rallies keeping fans across the world on the edge of their seats.

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Novak Djokovic says he regrets his failure to win at the US Open or Roland Garros

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“The US Open disqualification notwithstanding, I have only lost one match all season and I’ve played some of the best tennis of my life”

Novak Djokovic says he regrets the failure to win either the US or French Opens, despite playing some of the best tennis of his life in 2020.

Having won an eighth Australian Open in January, Djokovic was disqualified at the US Open after inadvertently hitting a line judge in the neck with a petulant swipe of the ball during his fourth-round clash with Pablo Carreno Busta.

He was then blown away by world No 2 Rafael Nadal in the final of the re-arranged French Open in October.

Djokovic remains on 17 Grand Slam titles while Nadal and Federer are on 20 each after the Spaniard clinched a record-extending 13th Roland Garros title.

“There is a lingering regret that I didn’t win either the US Open or the Roland Garros this year,” Djokovic told reporters at his tennis academy in downtown Belgrade by the Danube river.

“I was in outstanding form at both events but having reached the French Open final, I was beaten by a player who was much better on the day.

“I was below par and that’s it. As far as the US Open is concerned, I got myself into an unfortunate situation and was disqualified, but I won several other big tournaments.

“The US Open disqualification notwithstanding, I have only lost one match all season and I’ve played some of the best tennis of my life.”

Djokovic dismissed suggestions he was under intense pressure to overhaul Nadal and Federer in their three-way race to become the greatest male player of all time.

“Pressure has been a part of my life for a long time and I’ve learned how to deal with it,” he said.

“It comes with the territory if you are a top-level athlete and it can also galvanise you. You take physical and mental knocks along the way but it’s all part of the learning curve.

“If I retired now I’d be happy with everything I have achieved but I still enjoy competing and every tournament I enter gives me so much motivation and joy.”

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