Novak Djokovic recalls: 'Roger Federer is not strong as Rafael Nadal, but..'

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Novak Djokovic recalls: 'Roger Federer is not strong as Rafael Nadal, but..'

Novak Djokovic claimed his first Masters 1000 title on clay in Rome 2008. A year later, the Serb reached another semi-final at Foro Italico, with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal standing between him and the title defense. Novak took down world no.

5 Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 37 minutes in the quarter-final to set the semi-final clash against Federer, their first on clay in two years. Speaking about his upcoming challenge, Novak praised Roger as one of the finest clay-courters in the last four or five years.

However, Djokovic admitted that Nadal was still the most formidable rival on the slowest surface. The Serb played well against del Potro, reducing the youngster to eight winners and 30 unforced mistakes and breaking him three times.

The rivals traded breaks in the opener's games two and three. Del Potro suffered another in game four and found himself 4-1 down following Djokovic's forehand winner in the next one. The Serb brought the seventh game home with a perfect half-volley winner and secured the set with an ace at 5-3.

Juan Martin squandered two break chances in the second set's fourth game and got broken in the next one to find himself 3-2 down.

Novak Djokovic faced both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in Rome 2009.

Djokovic forced del Potro's mistake in the sixth game and held at 30 at 4-3 to move closer to the finish line.

The Argentine saved a match point on his serve in game nine with a service winner and blasted one from his forehand to bring the game home and reduce the deficit. Serving for the victory at 5-4, Novak seized the fourth match point when Juan Martin netted a forehand to set the Roger Federer clash.

"I will have a chance against Roger Federer if he joins me in the semi-final. It's a big challenge for both of us. I have been playing well lately, and I will have my opportunities. No one is easy to beat, but I think it's tougher to play against Nadal than Federer on clay; there's no question about that.

Still, Roger is excellent on this surface, playing in a couple of Roland Garros finals, winning Hamburg Masters and reaching other finals. He has been the second-best player on clay behind Nadal in the last four or five years," Novak Djokovic said.