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

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Novak Djokovic: '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 Indian Wells final. Rafael Nadal halted the Serb in his first Masters 1000 title match.

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 Djokovic 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 Rafa's mistake in the fourth game to move 3-1 in front.

Djokovic suffered a break at 15 a few minutes later when his forehand landed long to bring the Spaniard back to the positive side of the scoreboard. Djokovic's forehand worked much better in the next game, forcing another Nadal's error to secure the second straight break and move 4-2 ahead.

Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal for the first time in the 2007 Miami quarter-final.

Novak delivered a hold at love with a service winner to cement the advantage and wrapped up the set with an incredible volley in the ninth game for 6-3.

In the second set's third game, Nadal survived three break chances to stay in touch and earned a break opportunity in the next one with a volley winner. Novak dismissed it with a powerful forehand and leveled 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. Serving for the victory at 5-4, Novak passed the most challenging possible test, fending off three break chances with brave hitting and 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.

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.