Rafael Nadal, the clay king, had one more chance to win the Hamburg Masters in 2008, but the event was demoted to a Masters 1000 event the next year.
Nadal faced Novak Djokovic, the world no. 3 and the Rome champion, in the semifinals after an early exit from Rome.
Nadal triumphed 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 in three hours and three minutes inside on the Center Court in his ninth encounter and seventh victory. Novak had an added motivation to beat Nadal on clay for the first time, chasing the No. 2 but lost despite putting in a lot of effort and having 19 break chances.
Only four of the Serbian’s shots were successful, and he was broken five times, advancing the opponent to the final against Roger Federer. They both hit a comparable number of winners, but Djokovic leads Nadal in forced errors after taking a more aggressive approach.
Despite this, he committed too many unforced errors, many of which came at important times, to lose the match and remain third in the world, ahead of Roland Garros.
Novak broke the tie at 1-1 in the first game and consolidated his lead in the third game with a forehand down the line.
Nadal had dropped 14 of his last 18 points since the start of the match, falling behind 30-0 in the fourth game before fending off two break chances and securing the first game. After Nadal’s forehand, Novak blew a game point in the fifth game and lost serve and momentum.
Ruusuvuori talks about Rafael Nadal
Emil Ruusuvuori, Finland’s No. 1 player, recently reminisced on his contacts with Rafael Nadal. Due to his powerful topspin, he thought the Spaniard to be one-of-a-kind and difficult to return strokes against.
He went to Nadal’s house and knocked on his door. He has even practised with Novak Djokovic in the past.
“He hits the ball so high from the first ball on. I will see there is no one with such an experience. It’s a different kind of way that he approaches practices and of course, how he plays.
“I would say even Novak is nice, he hits the ball cleaner, it’s not as high in pace in practice, but it’s something very, very different.”
Nadal began competing in Melbourne, where he lost in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
He lost to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals in Paris. He didn’t compete in the Wimbledon Championships or the Tokyo Olympics after that. After a poor performance in Washington, he finished his season.