The king of clay Rafael Nadal had one more chance to claim the Hamburg Masters in 2008, with the event losing the Masters 1000 status from the next year. Heading to Hamburg following an early Rome exit, Rafa met world no. 3 and the Rome champion Novak Djokovic in the semis.
It was their tenth meeting and the seventh victory for Rafa, who prevailed 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 in three hours and three minutes under the roof on Centre Court. Novak had an extra motive to beat Rafa on clay for the first time, chasing world no.
2 spot but finishing on the losing side despite a great effort and 19 break chances on his tally. The Serb converted only four and suffered five breaks to push the rival into the final clash against Roger Federer. They hit a similar number of winners, and Djokovic stands above Nadal in the forced errors department after producing an aggressive approach.
Still, he sprayed too many unforced errors, often in the pivotal moments, to lose the match and remain world no. 3 ahead of Roland Garros. Novak grabbed a break at 1-1 in the opener and cemented the lead with a forehand down the line winner in game three.
Nadal drops 14 out of 18 points since the start of the match to find himself 30-0 down in game four before fending off two break chances and securing his first game. Novak wasted a game point in the fifth game and lost serve and momentum after Rafa's forehand winner.
The Spaniard saved a break point in game six to finally cath the rival and broke at love in game nine to serve for the set. Djokovic stayed calm and broke at 15 to extend the set, only for a couple of minutes, as Nadal broke him again in game 11 and sealed the opener with a forehand winner at 6-5 after 72 minutes.
Rafael Nadal played against Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in Hamburg 2008.
Novak saved two break chances at 2-2 in the second set and seized the fourth break chance in the next one to move 4-2 ahead. The Serb stole the rival's serve again at 5-2 to wrap up the set and get a massive boost ahead of the decider.
Nadal scored an early break with a backhand crosscourt winner and saved two break chances in game two to cement the lead. Djokovic could not convert two more break chances in the fourth game, and Nadal broke him again at 4-2 to increase the advantage.
The eighth game saw eight deuces and three break chances for Novak, denied by Rafa, who clinched the fifth match point to move over the top and set the final clash against Roger Federer. "It was a fantastic match. I'm a bit tired right now, so let's see how I feel tomorrow. I'll need to be 100% if I want to have a chance of beating Roger," Rafael Nadal said.