In Novak Djokovic's words: 'Rafael Nadal is the best player I have ever beaten'



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In Novak Djokovic's words: 'Rafael Nadal is the best player I have ever beaten'

Starting the season ranked 16th, Novak Djokovic didn't need much time to become the third-strongest link in men's tennis in 2007, entering the top-10 for the first time following the final in Indian Wells. Rafael Nadal halted the Serb in his first Masters 1000 title match and it was the other way around two weeks later in Miami, with Djokovic going all the way to claim the first Masters 1000 title at 19, serving revenge over the Spaniard in the quarter-final.

It was their third meeting and the first win for Novak over Rafa, delivering a 6-3, 6-4 triumph in an hour and 37 minutes to advance into the last four. The Serb produced an incredible performance on the second serve, taking 15 out of 20 points and fended off four out of five break chances to keep Nadal under pressure.

Unlike in Indian Wells, Rafa couldn't follow the rival's pace behind the initial shot, struggling on the second serve and getting broken three times from seven chances offered to the Serb. They stayed neck and neck in the shortest rallies up to four strokes and it was Djokovic who had the upper hand in the mid-range and more extended exchanges, leaving Rafa behind after hitting more winners than unforced errors.

After three great holds on both sides, Novak forced a mistake from Rafa in the fourth game to move 3-1 in front, gathering momentum before suffering a break at 15 in the very next game when his forehand landed long, brining the Spaniard back to the positive side of the scoreboard.

Djokovic's forehand worked much better in the next game, forcing another error from Nadal to secure the second straight break and move 4-2 ahead. Novak delivered a hold at love with a service winner to cement the advantage, wrapping up the set with an incredible volley in the ninth game for a 6-3.

In the third game of the second set, Nadal survived three break chances to stay in touch, earning a break opportunity in the next game with a volley winner.

Novak dismissed it with a powerful forehand, leveling the score at 2-2 with a volley winner.

Nadal netted a slice backhand in the fifth game to give serve away, sending the younger opponent in front and allowing Djokovic to gain a 4-2 lead with a hold at love a few minutes later.

Serving for the victory at 5-4, Novak passed the toughest possible test, fending off three break chances with brave hitting, sealing the deal with an ace to notch the first triumph over Nadal. "This is the most significant victory of my career; Rafael Nadal is the best player I have ever beaten.

I learned many things from Indian Wells final; my serve was bad in that one, together with a backhand and return, and he used those opportunities, as you expect from world no. 2. I was motivated today, having nothing to lose.

My results in the last couple of months have been great and I'm in great shape, feeling confident on the court. My serve worked like a charm and that's a positive thing for the future. Competing against world no. 2 in the Masters 1000 quarter-final is not easy; I got a bit nervous while serving for the match.

I missed some shots but I still played on a high level, not making too many errors that Rafa was waiting for. Playing against Michael Llodra and Feliciano Lopez helped me a lot, as they are both left-handed; those were helpful tests ahead of such a big encounter," said Novak Djokovic.