Rafael Nadal finally surpassed Roger Federer and became number one in the world. 1 in 2008. The Spaniard mastered the clay and grass swing and played at a high level during the North American hard court swing. He headed into the US Open as the best player in the world after winning the Olympic gold medal in Beijing.
After a well-deserved rest and two Davis Cup matches, Rafa returned to action at his home Masters 1000 in Madrid, hoping to repeat the title streak of 2005 and lift his ninth title of the season. The Spaniard suffered only one break of serve in the first three matches against Ernests Gulbis, Richard Gasquet and Feliciano López and was the favorite against Gilles Simon in the semi-final.
Simon worked for every point in the first four matches to set up the Nadal clash. He beat Igor Andreev, Robby Ginepri and Ivo Karlovic in the deciding tie break to find himself in the bottom four. As if that wasn’t enough, another marathon was waiting just around the corner against the best player in the world.
In one of the most entertaining matches of the season, Simon defeated Nadal 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 in three hours and 23 minutes in the biggest final of his career, making an impressive comeback and staying in the race. for the title. !
Rafa led 6-3, 4-3, 40-30 but squandered a break chance to heat up the drama. She fell in the closing stages of sets two and three to end up on the losing side despite giving up 120% against a persistent opponent who refused to give up.
Nadal came within two points of victory in the deciding set tie break. Still, it wasn’t that way for him, who experienced one of the most brutal defeats of the season and missed out on the chance to fight for another Masters 1000 crown.
The Spaniard won three points more than his rival but not the most important ones. He created 22 break point opportunities and converted just five, losing his chances to seal the deal and advance to the final. Nadal played against eight break point opportunities and dropped serve four times, enough for Gilles to stay in contention and control the scoreboard in the crucial moments of the decider.
The match started in Nadal’s favor, breaking in the first game and holding at 15 for a 2-0 lead. Rafa served well for the remainder of the set and kept the pressure on Gilles as he converted the fourth set point at 5-3 and secured the first set in style.
Gilles Simon beat Rafael Nadal in the 2008 Madrid marathon.
One of the crucial moments of the entire match came in the fourth game of the second set. Simon fended off three break points for a vital hold, staying on the positive side and keeping his chances alive.
Nadal was in an even better position to advance as he led 4-3, hitting an easy backhand that proved to be one of the pivotal shots of the match. Simón held with an ace to level the score at 4-4 and broke Nadal at love after the Spaniard’s costly double fault in the next.
Serving for the set at 5-4, Gilles was broken after Rafa’s backhand winner, and the set turned into open warfare. Game 11 was one of the longest and most exciting. Simon proved mentally more decisive, fending off Nadal’s four game points and breaking for the second time in a row on his third chance.
Serving for the set for the second time, the Frenchman fell 40-15 before winning four points in a row to seal the set 7-5 with a big shot winner and more drama after about 70 minutes. Rafa had a chance to take an early lead in the decider but wasted six break points in the second game, unable to land the final blow.
Simon saved another break chance at 2-3 with a lucky net cord before Nadal finally found a way to break it and move up 4-2. That wasn’t enough to get him across the finish line, as Simon pulled the break a few minutes later to keep in touch and build confidence.
Nadal cracked under the pressure first, spraying a forehand error at 5-5 to give his rival, who was now serving for a place in the final, the break. Gilles also showed nerves after scoring an easy forehand in game 12. He lost serve and sent the match into a deciding tie break, the best possible way to determine the winner after such a close battle.
Nadal sent a forehand wide while leading 3-1, and Simon went up 5-3 after forcing an error from the no. 1 in the eighth point. Rafa fell back to 5-5 and 6-6 before experiencing another mini-break and pushing the Frenchman 7-6 in front.
Gilles surged to the top as Rafa’s backhand landed long, celebrating one of the best wins of his career in a remarkable season that saw him win three ATP titles.