Madrid Flashback: Rafael Nadal edges Novak Djokovic in thriller

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Madrid Flashback: Rafael Nadal edges Novak Djokovic in thriller

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic met in the 2009 Madrid Masters semi-final. It was the first edition of this tournament in Caja Magica, and it remains the most thrilling encounter at this venue. After a titanic battle, Nadal defended three match points in a 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 victory in four hours and three minutes to set the title clash against Roger Federer.

It was the 19th straight victory for Nadal on clay in 2009 (150-4 since 2005) and his 27th victory in 28 ATP semi-finals on clay, overpowering the mighty opponent in one of the longest three-setters in the last couple of decades.

The Serb was there to challenge Rafa in all three biggest tournaments during the clay swing. Nadal had beaten him in the Monte Carlo and Rome finals, and Novak was ready to give his 120% and finally notch a win over the Spaniard on the slowest surface.

Djokovic won five points more and played against only two break chances in the entire clash. He earned eight break opportunities and seized two, although it was not enough for the win. Novak had more winners and fewer errors, beating Rafa in the most extended rallies but falling short in the deciding tie break to suffer one of the most heartbreaking defeats in a career.

Nadal made a shaky start, hit a double fault in the second game and found himself 3-0 down. Djokovic had a massive advantage behind his serve and held with ease in game five to open a 4-1 gap. The Spaniard held after deuce in game six and saved a set point at 2-5 with a forehand crosscourt winner to stay in touch and force Novak to serve for the set.

Djokovic was in a powerful rhythm in his games, and he brought the set home with a hold at 15 after 50 minutes. The Serb moved closer to the finish line with a break opportunity in the second set's third game that Nadal repelled with a service winner to stay in contention.

Both players held with ease in the next five games, and Rafa had to face an ultimate test at 4-4 when Novak created two break chances. Standing on the verge of defeat, Nadal blasted two service winners and brought the game home after another to stay ahead.

Djokovic had another break chance at 5-5, and Nadal erased it and held after 11 minutes.

Rafael Nadal needed over four hours to beat Novak Djokovic in Madrid 2009.

Novak had to play against the first break chance at 5-6, two hours and 12 minutes since the beginning of the match.

He saved it with a backhand down the line that forced Rafa's error and set a tie break where the pressure was on his opponent. With his back pushed against the wall, Nadal delivered his most excellent tennis, taking every point on serve and scoring a mini-break at 3-2 with a forehand winner.

The home favorite blasted a service winner to grab the breaker 7-5 and send the encounter into a decider after almost two and a half hours of incredible battle! The Serb kept fighting and created two break opportunities in the final set's game four.

He converted the second with a forehand winner to build a 3-1 lead and move closer to the finish line. Rafa broke back immediately to reduce the deficit when Novak missed a forehand and hit a forehand down the line winner in game six to level the score at 3-3.

Nadal overwhelmed the danger in game eight and held after deuce at 5-6 to set up a deciding tie break. Novak forced Rafa's backhand error at 5-5 to earn the first match point and had chances to seal the deal before Nadal landed a forehand down the line winner to prolong the action.

Djokovic produced another match point after a grueling rally, and Nadal erased it with a forehand winner to remain on the positive side. Novak fended off a match point at 7-8 with a forehand winner, and a service winner offered the third match point for him at 9-8.

Rafa repelled it with a service winner and cracked a forehand down the line winner to earn his second match point at 10-9, building momentum in the encounter's decisive moments. He forced Novak's error in that 18th point to seal the deal and celebrate one of the most significant victories in front of the partisan crowd.