Novak Djokovic on Rafael Nadal after their first ATP final: 'He was a better player'



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Novak Djokovic on Rafael Nadal after their first ATP final: 'He was a better player'

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have played almost 60 matches on the Tour since 2006, forging the most extensive rivalry in the Open era. Rafa and Novak met twice this spring, with the Spaniard beating the Serb in the Rome final before Novak served revenge at Roland Garros en route to his 19th Major title.

Nadal and Djokovic played their first final in Indian Wells 2007 when the young Serb advanced to his first title match at the premium ATP level. Novak took down David Ferrer and Andy Murray to set the clash against Rafa and continue his excellent run that year.

Djokovic needed just over an hour to oust Murray in the semis, but Nadal proved to be too strong for a teenager, beating him 6-2, 7-5 in an hour and 34 minutes for his seventh Masters 1000 trophy. Rafa fended off all three break chances and did enough damage on the return to control the scoreboard and seal the deal with a late break in the second.

Battling for his first notable title, Djokovic sprayed too many unforced errors and lost focus when it mattered the most in the second set's closing stages to settle with the runner-up prize.

Novak Djokovic lost to Rafael Nadal in Indian Wells 2007.

"Nadal was a better player today; I have to admit that and congratulate him.

I did not play my best tennis. I'm aware I was not 100% fit, although that's not the main reason for my level. Despite this loss, I'm delighted with my tournament and with the start of the season. It's essential to play the best tennis during the most important tournaments.

I was nervous at the beginning. After all, this is my first Masters final. Rafa started strong, and I did not, making too many unforced errors. His forehand worked like a charm, and that gave him control. I tried to make a comeback in the second set, playing a little better since the end of the first.

I had massive opportunities to move in front, especially those three break chances in the fourth game and deuces at 4-3 and 5-4. I wasted that all, and I do not think my backhand worked like I wanted today, not moving great and spraying numerous errors.

Rafa is more experienced than me, competing at some 20 Masters 1000 and Major finals at 20. I could have played better, but I have to stay positive. I think I can challenge Rafa from the baseline, as I, too, have powerful shots. With an improved backhand, I will stay in touch with him, just like today in set number two," Novak Djokovic said.