Competing against each other for the first time, Novak Djokovic had to retire after the second set against Rafael Nadal in the quarter-final at Roland Garros 2006. Winning two ATP titles by the end of the season, the Serb was ready for an even stronger assault in 2007, setting high goals and showing a desire to prove his quality.
Novak made a notable start, winning the third ATP title in Adelaide and getting a chance to compete against Roger Federer at the Australian Open. With more good results waiting around the corner, Djokovic reached his first Masters 1000 final in Indian Wells, losing to Rafael Nadal in straight sets.
Two weeks later, Novak was the player to beat in Miami, nothing his first triumph over Rafa and defeating Andy Murray and Guillermo Canas for the first notable ATP title. Djokovic didn't have too much time to celebrate, going back home to Serbia for the Davis Cup tie.
The Serb led his country against Georgia on an indoor carpet court, dropping one game against an unranked rival and turning his focus towards the clay swing in Monte Carlo. In his opening match of the season on dirt, Djokovic ousted a former Roland Garros champion Gaston Gaudio 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 in an hour and 42 minutes.
Novak won 55% of the return points and had the upper hand, dominating sets he won to notch the 13th victory in the last 14 matches. Gaudio grabbed four breaks but he needed more to stay in touch, getting broken seven times to propel Novak over the top.
Spraying more errors in set number two, Djokovic lost the ground for a moment, fending off a break chance at the beginning of the third with an ace and never looking back to race over the top. After the victory, Novak spoke about his goals on clay that spring, saying he is a better and stronger player than a year ago and feeling confident about his chances against Rafael Nadal.
"I felt pretty comfortable on the court; it all depended on me.
In set number two, I started to make a lot of errors, and Gaudio took advantage of that. At the beginning of the third, I saved a break point with an ace, never looking back after the opening two or three games.
If I want to chase big results on clay this year, I have to be physically prepared. Last year, I won my first ATP title on clay and reached the quarter-final at Roland Garros. I'm more reliable than in 2006, playing with more motivation and confidence.
I have proved to everyone that I have the quality to chase notable results at Majors and Masters 1000 events. I beat Rafael Nadal a few weeks ago and that victory means a lot to me. I will take one step at a time, not rushing anywhere. My goals are high and I believe I can defeat Rafael Nadal on clay," Novak Djokovic said.