Novak Djokovic became the third strongest player on the ATP Tour in 2007 behind Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Learning fast, Novak lost the Indian Wells final to Rafael Nadal in straight sets and served up the rematch in the Miami quarterfinals to celebrate the first win over the Spaniard.
Djokovic had 18 victories in the previous 20 meetings heading into Rome, and got off to a good start at the Foro Italico after beating Robin Soderling and Marcos Baghdatis. Facing Nadal for the third time in two months in the quarterfinals, Novak suffered a 6-2, 6-3 loss after one hour and 41 minutes of a tough battle.
Rafa lost 13 points in eight service games and saved a single break opportunity to increase pressure on the other side. Novak served 72%, but that did not contribute anything to him against the most dangerous rival on clay, losing half of the points in his matches and suffering four breaks of the 12 opportunities offered to Rafa.
The Spaniard had 30 winners and ten unforced errors and controlled the pace to take home the victory in style. He had a slight advantage in the shorter rallies of up to four strokes and completely outplayed Novak in the longer exchanges to reach the semi-finals.
The top-ranked player went broke in the first game after Djokovic's forehand error and held at 15 to establish a good rhythm. Novak had to dig deep in the third game to avoid another setback, fending off four break point chances to add his name on the scoreboard.
Nadal was zero in the fourth game and created more opportunities in the return a few minutes later. Still, Djokovic repelled three break points to stay within a break deficit.
Boris Becker on the Big 3
Boris Becker recently spoke at length about his former ward Novak Djokovic, pointing out how the Serb is often portrayed as the "bad guy"
Becker claimed Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have never been subject to such scrutiny, which makes the treatment meted out to Djokovic "unfair" "I know Novak privately and professionally, and I can only say that he is a fine guy," Becker said while speaking on Eurosport.
"A competitor who sometimes misbehaves on the court, but who doesn't? The public, including the media, really have to get used to the fact that there are not just two, but three [legends], who have great qualities as players and as individuals."
Boris Becker also asserted that it is unfair to villanize Novak Djokovic while always painting Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in a positive light. "It is not acceptable that Novak is always the bad guy and Roger and Rafa are always the good guys - that is unfair," Becker added.