Clay king Rafael Nadal had one more chance to claim the Hamburg Masters in 2008, and the event lost its Masters 1000 status the following year. Heading to Hamburg after an early departure from Rome, Rafa ran into no. 3 and the champion of Rome, Novak Djokovic, in the semifinals.
It was his tenth match and Rafa's seventh victory, who won 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 in three hours and three minutes indoors on the Center Court. Novak had an additional reason to beat Rafa on clay for the first time, chasing the No.
2, but finishing on the losing side despite a lot of effort and 19 break opportunities on his account. The Serbian converted only four and suffered five breaks to push the rival to the final clash against Roger Federer. They hit a similar number of winners, and Djokovic is ahead of Nadal in the forced error department after producing an aggressive approach.
Still, he made too many unforced errors, often at the crucial moments, to lose the match and remain number three in the world ahead of Roland Garros. Novak took a break at 1-1 in the first game and consolidated the lead with a forehand down the line in the third game.
Nadal loses 14 of 18 points since the start of the game to find himself down 30-0 in the fourth game before fending off two break opportunities and securing the first game from him. Novak blew a game point in the fifth game and lost serve and momentum after Rafa's forehand.
Ruusuvuori reflects on Rafael Nadal
Recently, Finland’s No. 1 player, Emil Ruusuvuori, reflected on his interactions with Rafael Nadal. He found the Spaniard to be unique and difficult to return the shots back due to his heavy topspin.
He visited Nadal’s structure and had a knock with him. In the past, he has even practiced with Novak Djokovic. “He hits the ball so high from the first ball on. I will see there is no one with such an experience. It’s a different kind of way that he approaches practices and of course, how he plays.
I would say even Novak is nice, he hits the ball cleaner, it’s not as high in pace in practice, but it’s something very, very different”. Speaking about Nadal, he began competing in Melbourne and lost in the quarterfinal of the Australian Open.
In Paris, he lost in the semifinal to Novak Djokovic. After that, he skipped the Wimbledon Championships and the Tokyo Olympics. He then ended his season after a dismal appearance in Washington.