Hamburg remained in the Masters 1000 family between 1990 and 2008. Notable champions included 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.
The Spaniard faced the most formidable challenge possible on his way to the title in 2008, taking on Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in two days. In Hamburg, after his early elimination in Rome, Rafa faced the world number 3 and champion in Rome, Djokovic.
It was their tenth meeting 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. With this win, he could have become world number 2 for the first time.
However, he ended up losing despite a great effort and 19 break chances. The Serb converted just four and suffered five breaks to push his opponent into the final clash against Roger Federer. Both had 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, often at crucial moments, causing him to lose the match and remain No. 3 in the world. Novak broke from 1-1 up in the first set and cemented the lead with a forehand winner in the next set.
Nadal dropped 14 of 18 points since the start of the match and found himself down 30-0 in the fourth game. However, he blew two break opportunities and put his name on the scoreboard. Novak wasted a match point in the fifth game and lost serve and momentum after Rafa’s winning forehand.
The Spaniard saved a break point in game six to catch up with his opponent and level the score at 3-3. Nadal broke out of the fast lane in the ninth game to go up 5-4 and serve for the set.
Rafael Nadal is the King of Clay
Patrick McEnroe recently spoke about Rafael NadalDominic Thiem’s dominance in the first games of the 2019 French Open final.
«I went to the French Open basically as a fan. There was one year when Rafa played Thiem in the final, and Thiem was playing really well. I mean, he had a great clay-court season, we were all thinking, ‘This guy can win. a Major, the French would be the best chance,’ of course, he won the (US) Open,» said Patrick McEnroe.
«I mean that’s how good Rafa was, and like you said, on clay, because of the extreme spin he has, you can see, it’s easier but he’s been able to dominate,» said the 56-year-old.