Rafael Nadal claimed the first ATP title on hard court in style, defeating Andre Agassi in the 2005 Montreal final to make a name for himself on the more common surface. Two years later, Nadal did not play at the level required to chase the title, beating Marat Safin, Paul-Henri Mathieu and Frank Dancevic to reach the semi-finals.
Third seed Novak Djokovic waited in the quarterfinals and proved too strong for Rafa that night. The Serbian earned a 7-5, 6-3 victory to set up the title clash against Roger Federer. It was Novak's second win over Rafa in seven meetings, suffering losses in Rome, Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the previous three months, but he found his best game in Montreal to advance to the final.
Djokovic fired 11 aces and defended all eight break opportunities to keep the pressure on the other side. He broke Nadal twice on four occasions to seal the deal in straight sets and stay on track for the title. The Serbian had 25 winners and forced more than 30 errors from Nadal, placing himself as the most aggressive player and eager to beat the rival after tough defeats at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
Djokovic built a huge advantage in the shorter range of up to four strokes and also dropped Nadal in the longest exchanges to seal the deal in style and prepare for another formidable opponent in the battle for the trophy.
Uncle Toni on Federer and Djokovic
Speaking to Eric Han on The Double Bagel Tennis Podcast, Rafael Nadal’s uncle Toni revealed he would rather have his nephew face Roger Federer than Novak Djokovic. He cited their ability to hatch a game plan against the Swiss star as a key factor behind his choice.
He said, “I don’t prefer to play against any one of these two guys. I prefer to play with other players. But, a little more with Federer. Because with Federer, I thought we have a way to win”. He also mentioned Djokovic’s ability to make opponents doubt their strategy makes him a tougher opponent.
“Against Novak, it was more difficult because he defends. You don’t know exactly what you have to do,” said the 50-year-old. “But, it was not a big difference”. Nadal’s head-to-head records with the two superstars do justice to Toni’s comments.
While he trails Djokovic 28-30, he leads Federer 24-16. The US Open presents an opportunity for Nadal to make history. With Federer sidelined due to knee surgery, only Djokovic can go ahead of himself to win a 21st Grand Slam.