Djokovic upbeat despite yet another setback in Madrid

Jonathan Hernandez
May 14, 2017

"I played really well tonight". Should he lift the trophy in Madrid, he will overhaul his other greatest rival Roger Federer in the rankings table and return to the world's top four.

But that was to misrepresent where these two stood in their more recent history.

Djokovic had won his last seven matches against the left-hander but although he was more competitive in the second, he could not prevent Nadal from wrapping up a 6-2 6-4 victory.

It continues a remarkable run on the clay surface for the Romanian, who has now won 22 of her last 25 matches on that type of court. Never had they taken so long for a rematch, but then it had been at Roland Garros a year ago that their paths took such contrasting directions.

The Spaniard now had a tour-leading 32 match-wins, and everything was falling into place on this Saturday afternoon: the rain of the week had gone, the sun shone, the arena was packed and in fine voice. It's the most lopsided win Nadal has had in this 50-match rivalry with Djokovic since he tagged his Serbian nemesis 6-3, 6-1 in the 2012 Monte Carlo final. The second set I was a little bit more nervous.

Djokovic was playing his first tournament since splitting from his long-term coaching team and won just four points in the opening four games as he fell 4-0 down to a rejuvenated Nadal.

Was Djokovic, though, starting to find his rhythm and focus?

He conceded only two break opportunities to Djokovic, who converted one early in the second set. Meanwhile, Nadal was bursting with energy, running everything down and seeming to read the Djokovic game easily. Maybe I had some chances to be in the lead, 2-All.

Two match points came and went and Nadal had to save a break point on his own serve before he closed out the match. The world number two broke back in the fourth to tie the set at 2-2 and celebrated by punching the air.

That surely would flood Djokovic with self-belief, except a double fault suggested otherwise. "To break that means there are always nerves", added Nadal.

Djokovic fought back but Nadal stayed just ahead until the 10th game when the Spaniard lost two match points.

'It was very good to play the semi-finals of a big event - and against a rival.

"There's no blame on anyone, it's down to me", Murray said after an error-strewn performance against Coric.

"It will be a very hard match against one of the best sportsmen this sport has ever had, and to have a chance I'll have to be at my very best", Nadal said. He deserved to win, he was controlling the game from beginning to the end. "I will try to improve the things I didn't do that good in Barcelona and then we will see what happens", Thiem said. It wasn't a very high quality of tennis from my side. I made a lot of unforced errors, especially in the first set.

Meanwhile, Nadal told Sky Sports he knew he had been getting closer to Djokovic after their encounters at Indian Wells and Rome last year, and in press said the circumstances in this match were different than previous years, a kind way of acknowledging how their respective forms have flipped.

Twenty-year-old German Alexander Zverev continued his fine form with a 6-4, 6-4 win over 11th seed Tomas Berdych to set up a quarter-final against Pablo Cuevas, who beat Benoit Paire 7-5, 0-6, 6-1.

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