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ThrowbackTimes Madrid: Rafael Nadal downs Roger Federer to reach final

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In 2009, Madrid Masters 1000 event switched from October to May and from indoor hard surface to clay, gathering the world’s leading players at Caja Magica. In the first edition, Roger Federer defeated Rafael Nadal in the title match, with the Spaniard serving revenge a year later to lift the trophy in front of the home fans.

In 2011, Roger and Rafa had to meet in the semi-final, reaching the last four together with Novak Djokovic and battling for the place in the final against the mighty Serb who was yet to lose a match that year. After two hours and 36 minutes, Nadal prevailed 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 for the third straight Madrid final, bouncing back after a tight opener and leaving Roger behind with a strong pace in sets two and three.

It was their 24th meeting on the Tour and the 16th triumph for the Spaniard who conquered 11 of 13 encounters on clay versus the Swiss. Landing 81% of the first serve in, Nadal fended off nine out of 11 break chances, securing five breaks from 12 opportunities to control the scoreboard in the second part of the encounter to propel himself over the finish line.

Rafa had more winners than unforced errors, taming his shots nicely and earning a massive advantage in the shortest range up to four strokes to forge the victory. Federer was in touch in the more advanced exchanges but his initial shot and the first groundstroke after it let him down completely, especially in set number two.

Trying to keep the points on his racquet, Roger had almost 40 winners but also more than 40 unforced errors, unable to defend his backhand in the way he would have wanted and losing steam after a reliable performance in the opener.

Nadal grabbed a break in the first game following a loose backhand from the Swiss, landing an ace to bring the next game home and confirm an early advantage. The Spaniard survived three break points in the fourth game, closing it with a volley winner to remain in front and squandering a break chance that could have sent him 4-1 in front.

Instead of that, Roger forced an error from Rafa in the eighth game to pull the break back, defending two break opportunities at 5-5 with powerful forehands and finding the angles with his backhand on the return in the next one to grab a break after a forehand down the line winner, securing the opener 7=5 after challenging 64 minutes.

Rafa opened the second set with a break thanks to a forehand winner, fending off a break point with a service winner a couple of minutes later to cement the advantage and open a 2-0 gap. The Spaniard had the upper hand in those moments, delivering another successful return game that sent him further in front and firing three winners in the closing stages of the next service game to erase two break points and eastablish a 4-0 lead.

Federer wasted a chance in the sixth game as well before spraying a backhand error on serve to suffer a break and hand the set to Rafa who had the momentum on his side after those commanding 6-1. Roger sprayed a backhand mistake to waste a break chance in the third game of the final set, suffering a break in the next game and allowing Nadal to forge a 4-1 advantage after a hold at love.

Serving for the victory at 5-3, Rafa had to play against a break point following an incredible rally and a drop shot winner from Roger who netted a return in the next point to squander a massive opportunity before Nadal sealed the deal two points later for the third straight Madrid final and the 28th at the Masters 1000 level overall, still at 25.

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Djokovic Earns Tricky Opening Win In Vienna

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In his first appearance at the Erste Bank Open since his 2007 title run, Novak Djokovic passed an early test to defeat countryman Filip Krajinovic 7-6(6), 6-3 on Tuesday.

Djokovic dropped serve twice in the first set and was forced to save set point at 5/6, before coming back to earn his place in the second round. The World No. 1, who struck 39 winners against Krajinovic, has now won 38 of his 40 matches this year.

“I was lucky in the first set… We are good friends, we train a lot [together] and it is never easy to play someone that you are very close to,” said Djokovic in an on-court interview. “He is a very nice guy and I have known him since he was very young. I followed him, I tried to be there as a friend, as a mentor. We go back a long way.

”We practised a few times [together] before coming to Vienna. The draw was tough for us to face each other, but there is always extra pressure and importance to a match when you play someone that you know very well.”

Djokovic added 45 FedEx ATP Rankings points to his tally with his second ATP Head2Head victory in three matches against Krajinovic. The Serbian is attempting to tie Pete Sampras’ record of six year-end World No. 1 finishes this year.

Djokovic was competing for the first time since his runner-up finish at Roland Garros (l. to Nadal). The 33-year-old will next face Borna Coric for a place in the quarter-finals.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion owns a 3-0 ATP Head2Head record against Coric. The pair most recently met in the 2018 Rolex Shanghai Masters final, which Djokovic won 6-3, 6-4. Coric earned his place in the second round with a 6-4, 6-4 win against Taylor Fritz on Monday.

In a first set that featured four service breaks, Djokovic and Krajinovic entertained the crowd in Vienna with their all-court skills and attacking tennis. Krajinovic took the initiative and hit his targets to earn set point at 6/5 in the tie-break, but Djokovic held firm with consistency from the baseline to extract crucial errors and earn a one-set lead.

Djokovic raised his game in the second set and earned an early break to take control of the match. The 2007 champion returned with depth and attacked with his forehand to close the match in just under two hours.

“[In the] first set, I think he was the better player. He was serving for the first set and I was lucky. He missed a smash at 6/6 in the tie-break,” said Djokovic. “A few points here and there can change the momentum of the match. In the second set, I stepped it up, I played better and I am just pleased with the way I finished the match.”

Grigor Dimitrov advanced to the second round in Vienna for the second straight year with a 7-6(6), 6-3 victory against Karen Khachanov. The Bulgarian converted three of four break points against the two-time Vienna quarter-finalist to improve to 17-10 in 2020.

“Karen is such an excellent player, such a heavy hitter,” said Dimitrov in an on-court interview. “In conditions like that, the court favours him quite a bit but I was able to just play a very solid game and take the right decisions at the right time.”

Hubert Hurkacz broke serve on four occasions to beat Attila Balazs of Hungary 6-3, 7-5. The 23-year-old will face Dusan Lajovic or Lorenzo Sonego for a place in the quarter-finals.

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