ATP Finals Flashback: Rafael Nadal downs Novak Djokovic to set Roger Federer clash

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ATP Finals Flashback: Rafael Nadal downs Novak Djokovic to set Roger Federer clash

Novak Djokovic became the third-strongest link on the Tour in 2007 behind Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The 20-year-old Serb played his first Major final at the US Open, reached the semis at Roland Garros and Wimbledon and conquered two Masters 1000 titles, securing his first Masters Cup berth.

Novak's 68th victory of the season came in the Madrid quarter-final against Mario Ancic, dropping the last five encounters by the end of the season. Three of those defeats came at the Masters Cup in Shanghai, where Djokovic couldn't fight for the semi-final place following losses against David Ferrer, Richard Gasquet and Rafael Nadal.

Unable to find his best tennis, Novak won only 14 games against Ferrer and Gasquet, facing Nadal in his last match of the season. It was already the seventh meeting between two great youngsters on the biggest scene in 2007, with Nadal winning the fifth of those following a 6-4, 6-4 victory in an hour and 44 minutes.

Thus, Rafa advanced into the last four for the second straight year, facing Roger Federer in the battle for a place in the final. The Spaniard lost 15 points in ten service games, fending off three out of four break chances to keep the pressure on the other side of the court.

Novak couldn't follow those numbers, getting broken three times to push Rafa towards the finish line. The Spaniard had 17 winners and 12 unforced errors, taming his strokes nicely and taking advantage of the Serb's 30 unforced errors, dominating the mid-range exchanges to move over the top in straight sets.

Djokovic opened a 40-0 lead in the first game before Nadal bounced back, extending the game to 14 points and creating two break chances, failing to convert any and forge and early advantage.

In 2007, Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic at the Masters Cup.

The Spaniard held at love in game two with a beautiful volley winner and secured a break a few minutes later to open a 2-1 gap.

With momentum on his side, Rafa held at love to move 3-1 ahead, taking 12 of the previous 14 points. Novak netted a volley in game five to suffer another break, pulling it back in the next one following a lucky net cord winner.

Rock-solid behind the initial shot, Nadal landed an ace down the T line to open a 5-3 gap, creating a set point on the return that Djokovic saved with a brilliant winner at the net. Serving for the set at 5-4, Rafa held at 15 to wrap up the first part of the match in style, hoping for more in the rest of the encounter.

Novak sprayed a backhand error in the second set's third game to find himself a set and a break down. Rafa confirmed the break with a service winner in game four and took four straight points behind the initial shot at 3-2 to remain in front.

Djokovic finally made some damage on the return in game eight thanks to a forehand down the line winner, wasting the opportunity after netting an easy forehand. Nadal fended off the second break chance with a mind-blowing defense and a volley winner at the net, forcing an error from Djokovic to bring the game home and open a 5-3 lead.

Serving for the victory at 5-4, Rafa placed a perfect volley winner to move over the top and set the Roger Federer clash, like a year ago.