Novak Djokovic: ‘Rafael Nadal lost set 6-1 and fought even harder after that’

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal met in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games semi-final, standing a win away from securing the first Olympic medal. After two hours and 11 minutes, Rafa prevailed 6-4, 1-6, 6-4, overcoming the second set failure and delivering a late break in the decider to advance into the title clash and beat Novak for the tenth time in 14 meetings. Thirteen days earlier, Djokovic ended Nadal’s streak of 32 consecutive victories, and he looked good to defeat the Spaniard again in Beijing following an impressive performance in set number two. In a manner of a true champion, a soon-to-become world no. 1 Nadal raised his level again in the third set and crossed the finish line to set the gold medal clash with Fernando Gonzalez. Novak had more winners and unforced errors, staying in touch with Rafa in the shortest range up to four strokes and toppling him in the most extended exchanges to take four points more than his rival.

Djokovic repelled three break chances in the opening game and fired an ace in game three to open a 2-1 gap. Nadal broke at 2-2 with a forehand down the line winner and again in game seven thanks to Djokovic’s double fault for a massive advantage. Novak pulled one break back in game eight and held to reduce the gap to 5-4. Serving for the set for the second time in the tenth game, Rafa held at 30 to claim the opener and gain a massive boost.  Eager to leave his everything on the court, Novak took charge in the second set and raced into a 3-0 lead before hitting a service winner two games later for a 4-1 advantage.

Novak Djokovic lost to Rafael Nadal in three sets at 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Serb broke again with a backhand winner at the net in the sixth game and closed the set with a backhand down the line winner a few minutes later for 6-1 and momentum ahead of the decider. Both players served well in the third set’s opening eight games, with more drama guaranteed in the rest of the clash. Nadal forced Djokovic’s mistake in the ninth game to move 5-4 up and survived Novak’s game point in the next one to prolong it. The Serb fended off the first match point before the Spaniard converted the second following Novak’s terrible smash to celebrate a massive victory and advance into the gold medal match.

“Loss is something that you never wish to happen, but that’s a part of the sport. I had a great tournament so far, reaching the semi-final and playing well, despite finishing on the losing side. I played aggressive tennis in the second set and parts of the first and third; that’s what my game is all about, and I hope to use that tomorrow. Yeah, it was a terrible miss in the final point; you have to win those without even thinking. My legs stopped, and people were screaming during my smash shots. Now I have to push myself to think positive and give my best tomorrow. I will be thrilled if I win the bronze; this is a special event, the one you remember for the rest of your life. I expected Rafa to make a comeback and raise his level; that’s why he is No. 1. He has been the best player this season, and he is very strong mentally. When you win a set 6-1 against him, he wants to change something and play on a higher level in the following set. I expected that, and I tried to maintain my momentum and an aggressive approach. We both fought well in the final set until that tenth game when he broke me,” Novak Djokovic said.