ADVERTISEMENT

When Rafael Nadal claimed the first grass-court title over Novak Djokovic

ADVERTISEMENT

On June 15, 2008, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic met in the final of the prestigious Queen’s event, the second biggest grass-court tournament after Wimbledon. A year earlier, they battled it out in the Wimbledon semi-finals when Novak retired in the third set.

The Queen’s match went all the way, with Nadal defeating Djokovic 7-6, 7-5 in two grueling hours and 16 minutes. It was the Spaniard’s ninth victory over the Serbian and his first ATP title on grass. Like every year since 2005, Nadal was a player to beat on clay that spring, capturing his fourth Roland Garros crown and closing in on Roger Federer in a battle for world no.

1 place The win against Djokovic was Nadal’s 37th in the last 40 matches, and served as a real boost ahead of Wimbledon, where he would finally beat Federer in the final. As the result suggests, it was a close battle from the start, with Nadal prevailing in both sets to clinch the crown after earning just four points more than Djokovic.

ADVERTISEMENT

In addition to the legendary trophy, they battled for the first ATP title on the fastest surface, with Novak competing in the first grass-court title match. Nadal was eager to put his two losses at Wimbledon behind him, and overcame a slow start to take home the straight-set victory.

Rafa saved a set point in the first set tie break and won the last three games trailing 4-5 in the second. Gone are the old days of serve and volley tennis, and this was a dynamic conflict between two of the best baseline players in the world.

He delivered 26 eight-plus rallies and just eight volley winners! Still, they went for the shots and hit nearly 50 game winners from the floor, mostly forehands. It was interesting to watch Novak’s movement as he struggled to find the right balance on the slippery surface.

The Serb played many shots from awkward positions and found himself on the ground several times, luckily without injury. The Serb was more determined to impose his shots in the first few games, and Nadal realized that he would have to take riskier shots to get back on track and compete on the same level as the dangerous rival.

Once he did that, an entertaining clash ensued, and they stayed neck-and-neck until the last point. Having beaten Djokovic eight times in the previous 11 matches helped Nadal get the upper hand in the decisive moments of both teams, although they could have gone with Novak.

They had seven aces, although we are getting a much better picture by examining the number of service winners, where Djokovic stood at 24 and Nadal at 20. The Spaniard had 25 winners from the court, one more than the Serb, whose backhand did not. made. work as he wanted.

Novak made 24 unforced errors thanks to those problems with his movement that would improve a lot in the years to come. Rafa was left with 15 unforced errors, creating a significant difference in that segment considering how close the match was.

Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic in the 2008 Queen’s final.

Nadal made two more forced errors (21 to 19), and those unforced errors cost Novak the win or at least a set. More than half of the points ended up in the shortest area to four shots, and Nadal was 51-46 in front, despite hitting four fewer service winners than Novak.

The Serb managed to make up for that shortage in the mid-range exchanges (27-22), and it all came down to those longer exchanges where Rafa prevailed 15-11 to create that four-point gap. Djokovic kicked off the action with a shaky service game, bringing it home after ten points and a break chance.

He saved it with a service winner and opened up a 40-0 lead in the next one, returning well and forcing Nadal’s mistakes with excellent shots down the line. Novak squandered the first break point when his forehand landed long.

Rafa saved the other two to reach deuce before hitting two forced errors to suffer a break. The Serb confirmed the advantage with three winners in the third game and had more chances to steal the opponent’s serve and carve out an even bigger gap.

The Spaniard struggled to find his rhythm in the first 25 minutes. Still, he fended off a break point at 0-3 with a forehand winner just after serve and brought the game home with the third service winner to put his name on the scoreboard.

The fifth game was another long one, and Nadal was dangerous in the second leg. He created four break chances and converted the last one when Novak missed a backhand to get back on the positive side. Rafa leveled the score at 3-3 with three serves not returned in game six, happy with that scoreline after a slow start.

Both found a good rhythm in the following games, hitting plenty of game winners and making it to 5-5 with no problem. The final two games were tight and with deuces. The servers overlooked the break chances to set up a tiebreaker. Novak was 3-1 4-3 5-4 6-5 in front, winning that set point after a 13-shot rally.

Rafa denied it with a forehand winner after 18 shots and scored another mini-break with a deep return at the 13th point to take a 7-6 lead. He Seized set point with a service winner 8-6 after a grueling 74 minutes!

Novak led the service winners segment 16-13, and Rafa had one more winner, scoring 12 to Novak’s 11. Djokovic had 16 unforced errors while Nadal had eight, with five more forced errors on the Spaniard’s account. (14-9).

Buoyed by that result, Nadal hit three winners in the first game of the second set and broke Djokovic in the second after three errors from his rival, who had movement problems on the slippery surface. Rafa got broken in game three after a forced error and allowed Novak to get back on level with three unreturned serves in the next.

After comfortable holds on both sides, Nadal had a chance to move in front again after earning two break points in game eight. Djokovic parried the first after an 8-shot rally and the second with a service winner before closing out the game with a backhand winner to avoid the backhand and send the pressure the other way.

Game nine began with a forehand winner from the Serb, and Nadal added three errors to break love and leave Djokovic serving for the set. A solid hold came between Novak and the second set, but it wasn’t for him.

It was broken when Rafa secured the third break chance in game ten and closed the result at 5-5 for more drama. Nadal went up 40-0 in game eleven with three winners before Novak moved back up to deuce. The Spaniard won the next two points to take the game home and force the rival to serve to stay in the game.

At 30-30 in game 12, Djokovic volleyed long and faced the first match point. Nadal sealed the deal with a big winner at the net to celebrate his first and 28th career ATP grass-court title.

sniloans