ATP MADRID: Rafael Nadal eases past Novak Djokovic for the first win over Serb in 3 years!

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ATP MADRID: Rafael Nadal eases past Novak Djokovic for the first win over Serb in 3 years!

The entire tennis world expected the 50th clash between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in Madrid semi-final, but the match failed to live up to expectations, as Nadal won it by 6-2 6-4 in an hour and 38 minutes, advancing to his 8th Madrid final. Spaniard was the pre-match favorite after winning the titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, and also due to a poor Novak's form, but the Serb could rely on his great head to head numbers with Rafa, winning the last 7 matches (11 out of the last 12) and also 15 sets! Nadal didn't score a triumph over Novak since the Roland Garros final in 2014 but it was all about him today, as he completely dominated on the court to control the match from start to finish (the first straight sets win for Rafa over Novak since Rome 2009). Nadal lost his serve just once and he broke Novak 4 times, playing equally well on both serve and return to continue his great run on clay this spring. Novak played better in set number 2, he even had a break point for a 5-5 but Nadal saved it with an amazing drop shot and finished the match 3 points later. In the title match, Nadal will play against Dominic Thiem or Pablo Cuevas and will be the clear favorite to lift his 30th Masters 1000 trophy. 

Nadal was clearly the better player on the court, moving better, hitting the ball stronger and keeping Novak away from his best shots, return and backhand. Spaniard served well, sailing through 6 out of 9 service games and facing only 2 break points, his backhand was also top notch, together with the return, as he won almost 50% of the return points, breaking Novak 4 times from 6 chances. Just like in many matches since Wimbledon last year, and especially in 2017, Novak lacked the depth in his shots and he couldn't take charge in the rallies, making too many errors from both wings. His serve was also not there and return was also below his usual level, unable to push Nadal with that initial stroke or to move him from the ideal position to set up the exchange. In set number 2 Novak started to find the range of his shots, notably from his backhand wing, and he had a chance to make the result even at 5-5, only to be halted by Nadal who kept his focus to fend off a break point and bring the match home without further struggle. 

It was the best possible start for Nadal, who won 17 out of the first 21 points to open up a 4-0 lead! He broke at love in the first game with a return winner and a forehand winner gave him a double break in game 3. Novak saved a set point in game 7 but Nadal was just too good on his serve, delivering the opener with another easy hold in game 8 for a 6-2. Rafa dropped just 6 points in 4 service games and he was all over Novak on the return as well, winning 15 out of 27 points for one of his most lopsided sets over the Serb. It seemed that Spaniard can't put a foot wrong, breaking again at the start of the second set after another poor shot from Novak. Serb finally started to look like a serious contender when he held at love in game 3, playing his best game since the start of the match, and he broke back in game 4 to level the score at 2-2.

An amazing forehand winner gave Nadal another break point in game 5 and he converted it when Novak sent another backhand long. That will be the last break of the match, they both served well in the next 4 games and Rafa served for the win in game 10. Nice backhand cross court shot gave him 2 match points but he wasted both to bring Novak back to deuce. Serb took the next point as well to earn a break point but Nadal repelled it with a great drop shot. Service winner moved Nadal one point away from the triumph again and he converted this 3rd opportunity to wrap up a very important victory. 

Semi-final result: 



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