At last year's ATP Finals in London, players had the opportunity to share their thoughts on the timeless theme of best-of-five matches outside of Grand Slams. Novak Djokovic wanted to see the best-of-three matches in the Majors in the future, while Rafael Nadal, along with Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev, would not change a thing.
The Spaniard was no longer able to see the best-of-five Masters 1000 finals, unlike the Majors, especially in back-to-back tournaments. Recalling his brilliant victories over Guillermo Coria and Roger Federer in Rome in 2005 and 2006, Rafa said that both lasted more than five hours, which prevented the players from performing at the Hamburg event next week.
That outstanding Rome 2006 title match, the greatest clash of all time for many, was the final nail in the coffin of the best-of-five Masters 1000 final, and the final title match in that format came in Miami 2007. Nadal needed five hours and five minutes to beat Federer 6-7 (0), 7-6 (5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (5) and defend the Rome title, with both players giving 120% from start to finish.
The Spaniard was already one of the best clay court players at the age of 19. However, Roger entered this final with a good vibes after pushing Rafa to the limit in Monte Carlo a month earlier, ready to make another strong challenge in Rome and fight for the title.
The Swiss was on equal footing with the Spaniard and had a great opportunity to steal the win, leading 4-1 in the final set and wasting two match points on the return in the 12th game and a 5-3 lead in the decisive tiebreaker.
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And when asked which Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic will end up as the best player of all time, the former 20th world player acknowledged an advantage for the Serbian. “I find it hard to assume that Novak won't win another Grand Slam.
He will break the record for the number of wins, that's not a problem for him. Roger has very little chance of winning another Major, considering his age, style of play and condition. Rafa's game is too energy intensive, he plays every game as if it was his last.
Considering his age and health, this is a disadvantage. Although over the years he changed his game: he became more aggressive, stopped going too far behind the back line. The three complement each other. Djokovic has become such a strong player thanks to Federer and Nadal.
He tried to find ways to beat them, and he relied on physical preparation. He looks like a triathlete right now, he's very meticulous."