When Rafael Nadal praised Novak Djokovic as great competitor

Tennis - Djokovic defeated Nadal for the first time in Miami 2007

by Jovica Ilic
When Rafael Nadal praised Novak Djokovic as great competitor

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal met for the third time in the 2007 Miami quarter-final. Nadal defeated Djokovic in their first two encounters and wished for more in Florida after conquering Indian Wells. However, it was the Serb's turn to celebrate, beating the Spaniard 6-3, 6-4 for his first win over world no.

2. Novak ousted Rafa in an hour and 37 minutes, playing incredibly well on the second serve and taking 15 out of 20 points. Djokovic fended off four out of five break chances and kept the rival under pressure. Unlike in Indian Wells, Rafa could not follow the rival's pace behind the initial shot.

He struggled on the second serve and got broken three times from seven chances offered to Novak. They stayed neck and neck in the shortest rallies up to four strokes. Djokovic forged the triumph in the mid-range and most advanced exchanges, hitting more winners than unforced errors.

The encounter kicked off with three commanding holds on both sides. Djokovic shifted into a higher gear and forced Nadal's error to grab a break in game four and open a 3-1 lead. Rafa pulled the break back in the next one after Novak's loose forehand and returned to the positive side.

Djokovic fixed his forehand in the next game and grabbed another break after forcing Nadal's error for the second break in a row and a 4-2 advantage.

Novak Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal for the first time in Miami 2007.

Novak held at love with a service winner in game seven and wrapped up the set on his serve at 5-3 with a thrilling volley winner.

Rafa survived three break chances at 1-1 in the second set and landed a volley winner in the next one to earn a break opportunity. Djokovic denied it with a powerful forehand and locked the result at 2-2 with another fine point at the net.

Nadal got broken in the fifth game when his slice finished in the net and found himself in a challenging position. Djokovic confirmed it with a hold at love that sent him 4-2 up and closer to the finish line. Novak served for the victory at 5-4 and experienced the most challenging test.

The Serb fended off three break points with brave hitting and sealed the deal with an ace to secure his first triumph over Rafa. Nadal praised Djokovic after the match, calling him an outstanding competitor and congratulating him on his victory.

"I was not on the same level as in Indian Wells two weeks ago. Also, Novak reduced the number of errors. I had my chances in the opening set after a comeback, but Novak broke again and gained the advantage. It was a critical moment.

Novak played at a very high level; he is an outstanding competitor, and I congratulate him on the win. My foot has been bothering me, but it's not the right moment to speak about that. It hurt even when I won Indian Wells, so that does not make a difference.

My biggest problem tonight was my backhand; it did not work well. I needed deeper balls from my backhand wing and fewer errors. When you have problems with your backhand, your forehand will struggle too. I do not know if I have improved my hard-court game, but I'm giving my best every week.

I was without a title between the last year's Roland Garros and Indian Wells, but I was in the quarters, semis or final all the time," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal Novak Djokovic