Canada Flashback: Rafael Nadal edges Novak Djokovic in a thriller

A couple of weeks after their epic Roland Garros semi-final clash, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic met in the same round of the Canada Masters in Cincinnati in 2013. Starting the year a bit later due to an injury suffered in the previous season, Nadal was among the players to beat between February and September, embracing an incredible run and becoming a contender for the ATP throne. Rafa lost to Novak in the Monte Carlo final before conquering Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. The Spaniard experienced an early loss at Wimbledon and headed to Montreal eager for a much deeper run. Nadal prevailed over Jerzy Janowicz and advanced into the semis, where he met a two-time defending Canada Open champion and world no. 1 Novak Djokovic. It was their first meeting on hard court since that epic 2012 Australian Open final, and Nadal prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 after two and a half hours to reach a title clash.

Rafa’s previous win over Novak on hard came at the ATP Finals 2010, and he had to dig deep to earn the new one, winning two points more than the Serb and staying composed in the decisive moments. Rafa defeated Novak for the 21st time in 36 encounters, getting broken twice just like the world’s leading player and overpowering him in the essential points to remain on the title course. Djokovic had a couple of winners more than Nadal, who forced more mistakes from his opponent to erase that deficit and stay in touch.

Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic in the deciding tie break in Montreal 2013.

Also, they remained neck and neck in the shortest and more advanced rallies to keep the crowd on the edge of their seats from start to finish. Novak hit a double fault in the opening game to suffer a break and wasted three break chances in the next one to push Rafa 2-0 in front. Nadal landed an ace in the sixth game to stay in front and opened a 5-2 gap when Djokovic hit another double fault.

Serving for the set, Rafa got broken for the first time and allowed Novak to reduce the deficit to 4-5 with a service winner in game nine. Nadal made no errors in the next one, though, placing a smash that Djokovic could not return to secure the opener 6-4. Novak served much better in the second set and prolonged the eighth game despite being 40-0 down. Rafa wasted game points and got broken following a backhand error to push the rival ahead. Serving for the set at 5-3, Novak fended off a break chance and fired a service winner to wrap it up and force a decider. Earning two break chances in the eighth game, Rafa lost four straight points to squander an opportunity to seal the deal earlier. Both players served well until the tie break, where Nadal stood as a stronger player, winning it 7-2 to advance into the title clash.