Hamburg stayed on the Masters 1000 calendar between 1990 and 2008. The most prominent champions were Stefan Edberg, Marcelo Ríos, Gustavo Kuerten and Roger Federer, but a big name was missing from that list. Rafael Nadal had always preferred Rome to Hamburg, losing the 2007 final to Roger and getting one more chance a year later.
Going to Hamburg after an early exit in Rome in 2008, Rafa met world no.3 and Rome champion Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals. It was his tenth match and the seventh victory for Rafa, who won 7-5, 2-6 and 6-2 in three hours and three minutes indoors on Center Court.
Novak had an extra reason to beat Rafa on clay for the first time. He could have become world number 2 with this victory, but ended up losing despite a great effort and 19 break chances on his account. The Serb converted just four and suffered five breaks to push the opponent into the final clash against Roger Federer.
Both landed a similar number of winners. Djokovic ranked above Nadal in the forced errors department after an aggressive approach. Even so, he made too many unforced errors in his efforts, often at crucial moments, to lose the match and remain No.
3 in the world. Novak got a break at 1-1 in the first game and cemented the lead with a forehand winner down the line in the third game. Nadal dropped 14 of 18 points from the start of the match and found himself trailing 30-0 in the fourth game, before turning down two break chances and putting his name on the scoreboard.
Novak wasted a game point in the fifth game and lost serve and momentum following Rafa's game-winning forehand. The Spaniard saved a break point in the sixth game to finally catch up with the opposition and level the score at 3-3.
Nadal broke in the ninth game to carve out a 5-4 lead and serve for the set. Djokovic kept his cool and broke at 15 to extend the battle.
King Roger will not go to Australia
2022 was a year of high level for Marin Cilic. The Croatian returned to the fore based on great results and posh victories, including authentic displays, like the one he signed against Daniil Medvedev at Roland Garros.
But that is a closed chapter, a season that was very different from the current scenario. For example, at the beginning of that year Novak Djokovic was not in the big events, while there was still talk of a possible return of Roger Federer to the competition, although without clarified dates.
"We wanted Roger to never go away, because he's a great guy and obviously an inspiration not only to us gamers, but to a lot of guys around the world. Also, to a lot of these Next Gen players that are now in the elite he has been their greatest inspiration, their greatest reference, perhaps he is still their idol.
It is very difficult to assimilate that he is no longer there, it is clear that the circuit is different without him. However, I would say that we are still lucky: we have Rafa and Novak playing, and when I say playing I mean keeping that enthusiasm that keeps them up there. It's not the same without Roger, but I think the guys know the circuit looks different."