Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic met in Caja Magica in the 2009 Madrid Masters semi-final. Two great rivals turned it into a cracker, with Nadal prevailing 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 after unreal four hours and three minutes! Rafa fended off three match points and emerged at the top following one of the most extended three-setters in ATP history.
Nadal came to Madrid after conquering the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome, seeking another notable title in front of his home fans. He had to give his 120% to overpower Novak and secure his 19th consecutive victory on clay that year.
Nadal had beaten Djokovic in the Monte Carlo and Rome finals, and Novak was ready to give his everything 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 created eight break opportunities and seized two, pushing Nadal to the limits but finishing on the losing side. 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 after hitting a double fault in game two to drop serve. He faced troubles at 0-3 before delivering two service winners to get his name on the board. Djokovic had a clear advantage behind the initial shot early on.
He held with ease in game five to move 4-1 ahead and placed his strokes precisely to move Nadal around the court. The Spaniard held after another deuce in game six and saved a set point at 2-5 with a forehand crosscourt winner that kept him in touch.
Djokovic was in a strong rhythm in his games, bringing the set home with a hold at 15 at 5-3 after 50 minutes and looking strong to grab his first triumph over Rafa on clay. The Serb moved closer to the finish line with a break opportunity in the second set's third game.
Nadal repelled it with a service winner and notched another significant hold to keep himself in contention. Both players held easily in the next five games, and Rafa faced an ultimate test at 4-4 when Novak created two break chances.
Standing on the verge of defeat, the home favorite blasted two service winners and brought the game home after another to open a 5-4 advantage.
Rafael Nadal needed over four hours to overpower Novak Djokovic in the 2009 Madrid SF.
More troubles were waiting for the Spaniard just around the corner, as Djokovic had another break chance at 5-5.
Nadal denied it with a good serve and brought the game home after 11 minutes to hang in there. Novak played 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.
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!
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. Suddenly, Rafa broke back immediately to reduce the deficit when Novak sprayed a forehand error.
The battle was alive and kicking after the Spaniard's forehand down the line winner in game six that leveled the score at 3-3 and brought more drama. Djokovic struggled with his second serve but held before reaching two deuces on the return a few minutes later that could have delivered the crucial lead for him.
Nadal overcame the danger and held after deuce in game 12 to set up a deciding tie break, the best way to determine the winner of this great clash of titans. Novak forced Rafa's backhand error at 5-5 to earn the first match point.
He had his chances to seal the deal before Nadal landed a forehand down the line winner to level the score at 6-6. Djokovic produced another match point after a grueling rally, and Nadal erased it after another forehand winner to remain on the positive side.
Novak fended off a match point at 7-8 with a forehand winner. He landed a service winner for his third match point at 9-8, hoping for that one last push that would carry him over the top. 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 in front of the partisan crowd that helped him pass one of the most challenging obstacles he ever faced on his beloved surface.