There were high hopes for Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal and it was a match that certainly did not disappoint. Two hours 25 minutes it took for the world No.1 to claim victory 7-5 7-6, a seventh straight win over Nadal.
The Serbian claimed later that he had come through “the biggest test in sport” and it is difficult to disagree. Certainly the Spaniard had Djokovic rattled as he broke for a 3-2 first lead before the reigning champion came back to win the first set.
Nadal was then 5-4 in the second set but missed five set points serving for the set, Djokovic proving too strong amid passionate scenes in Center Court.
“It felt definitely special to be on the court today playing against Rafa for several hours, two sets, very long,” he said. “Thankfully we didn’t play Grand Slams, best of five. Who knows when this match would finish?
“But I thought towards the end of both sets I managed to find an extra gear and come up with some important play, aggressive play. You know, I think I won maybe a couple points more than him in the match, so that says enough about how even, you know, this encounter was.
“I think the last 20 minutes of the match was a very high quality of tennis, entertaining, of course, for the crowd, for us players, as well.
“Certainly winning against Nadal on clay doesn’t happen often, doesn’t happen every day, so it is one of the ultimate challenges if not the ultimate challenge we have in sports. So I’m going to take this as a boost of confidence, no doubt, for the rest of this tournament and then of course for French Open.”
Nadal bemoaned his misfortune but is happy with his form.
“I am playing well,” he said. “It was a beautiful match, a little bit unlucky for me today, so many chances in the first set. I have to congratulate him. When somebody is winning as much as he is doing last year and months, two years, we know the dynamics are so important. He was hitting great shots in important moments.
“In general I’m playing well in the most of the matches most of the time. And today I was there mentally fighting for every point, hitting good shots. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s better for me best-of-five or best-of-three. Is something that I don’t think about it now. The only thing that I think is I have been very, very, very close this afternoon, and that’s positive.
“I have been competing at the highest level against the best player. Play a match like this, best player of the world, that’s the only thing that give me the confidence.”
Djokovic will now play Kei Nishikori who beat Dominic Thiem 6-3 7-5 in the late match of the quarters on Friday.