In Miami 2007, Novak Djokovic scored his first victory against Rafael Nadal, beating the Spaniard en route to his first Masters 1000 title. The best youngsters in the world got another opportunity to fight in the quarter-final of the Masters 1000 event, this time on clay in Rome in May.
The two-time defending champion Nadal was the favorite, proving that on the court with a commanding 6-2, 6-3 victory in an hour and 41 minutes. Nadal had dominant numbers behind the initial shot, facing only one break point and never losing serve.
The pressure was on Novak and he couldn't deal with it, giving away half of the points in his games and suffering four breaks. Nadal controlled the pace with 30 winners and only ten unforced errors, toppling Djokovic in the more extended exchanges to seal the deal in straight sets and advance into the semis.
Making the best start, Rafa grabbed a break in the first game after a forehand mistake from Novak, holding at 15 to confirm the lead. Djokovic had to play against seven break chances in the next service games, unable to find the rhythm and move Nadal from the comfort zone.
The Serb remained in touch, creating his only opportunity on the return in game six that Nadal repelled to stay in front. After missing his chance, Novak got broken at 15 in game seven, sending Rafa 5-2 up and losing the opener following a forehand mistake a few minutes later.
Djokovic was there to fight in set number two, staying in touch until 3-3 when he played a loose service game and got broken. The defending champion confirmed a break with a forehand winner, forging a 5-3 lead and crossing the finish line with a break at love in game nine.
Despite the loss, Novak was still confident about his abilities on clay, saying he is one of the best players on the slowest surface.
"After Monte Carlo, I have been working hard on my physical preparations.
I wanted to be ready for Rome, Hamburg and Roland Garros.
I had difficult matches here in Rome but I felt good on the court today, running a lot. We had long games and points and I'm not tired. That's positive news ahead of Roland Garros. I think I prefer hard court but I play well on clay too.
This defeat will not put me down, as I lost to a player who has almost 20 straight victories. I'm still confident and I believe I'm among the best clay-courters in the world. The court is fast and that will offer a chance for someone to challenge Rafa.
Still, it seems he likes the conditions too. He can play on every surface; he proved that at Wimbledon last year. Rafa has played on a high level since Monte Carlo, giving us no chance to beat him," Novak Djokovic said.