Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal met in the semi-final of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, one victory away from taking the first Olympic medal. After two hours and 11 minutes, Rafa prevailed 6-4, 1-6, 6-4, overcoming the failure of the second set and delivering a late break in the decider to advance to the title clash and beat Novak by a tenth time in 14 meetings.
Thirteen days earlier, Djokovic ended Nadal's 32-game winning streak, and looked good to defeat the Spaniard again in Beijing after an impressive performance in set number two. Like a true champion, one who will soon become # 1.
Nadal leveled up again in the third set and crossed the finish line to mark the gold medal clash with Fernando González. Novak had more winners and unforced errors, keeping in touch with Rafa in the shorter range up to four strokes and knocking him down in the most extended exchanges to take four more points than his rival.
Djokovic rejected three break opportunities in the first game and shot an ace in the third game to open a 2-1 gap. Nadal broke at 2-2 with a forehand down the line and again in game seven thanks to Djokovic's double fault for a huge lead.
Novak retired a break in game eight and held on to narrow the gap to 5-4. Serving for the set for the second time in the 10th game, Rafa held out at 30 to claim the first match and gain a massive boost. Eager to get it all on the court, Novak took over in the second set and moved into a 3-0 lead before hitting a service winner two games later for a 4-1 lead.
Ibrahimovic talks about Djokovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic recently talked about the mental attributes of Novak Djokovic, explaining how the Serb is similar to him in some respects. Ibrahimovic believes Djokovic is a "complete athlete" who, like him, has improved upon his mental prowess with experience.
"First of all he’s (Novak Djokovic) a Balkan head: when you explode you do well, when you get angry you do the best you can," Ibrahimovic said. "You are more focused, more careful. When Nole plays and gets angry he brings out his best, and that’s how I feel alive."
If Novak Djokovic had won the US Open, he would have become the first man in over 50 years to accomplish the feat. "The crisis in New York? It is never easy to digest such a disappointment," Ibrahimovic said. "Nole played great and won all year.
Then at the final step he missed something. It happens, it happens. But what Nole did remains incredible, unbelievable," he added. "And he must think so. I have not seen others do the same thing: he came close to the goal, like no one, but then it is true that the others are strong too, not just him."