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Nadal v Djokovic as it happened

Artois Championships

Final result:


7-6 (8-6) 7-5


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By David Ornstein

"If Wimbledon is half as good as that. It'll be the greatest tournament in living memory...."
Mike "a bit philosophical" via text on 81111

1647: So, next stop SW19. On the day both world number one Roger Federer and world number two Rafael Nadal lifted titles (Queen's and Halle) who would bet against the pair meeting in a third successive Wimbledon final in a few weeks' time?

1645: Rafa lifts the biggest trophy I've ever seen...well, that's an exaggeration but it is about the size of football's Champions League trophy.

"Novak is doing unbelievable things, congratulations," says Rafa. "I want to thank all the people because I couldn't have won this without your support. Thank you very much."

1642: Rafa earns more than a few wolf whistles as he changes shirts in preparation for the trophy ceremony. Novak get a huge cheer when he collects his runners-up awards.

"It was a great match and a terrific week. I've only been playing on this surface for three years. I want to congratulate my opponent, he's an amazing player, this is an amazing achievement - winning the French Open and Queen's in the same year."


Nadal 7-6 (8-6) 7-5 Djokovic
What better a way to begin than by passing the world number two down the line with a thunderous forehand drive? But Novak nets and then Rafa returns fire by passing the Serb with a whipped top-spin forehand that clipped the chalk, as shown in the Hawk-eye challenge requested by Djoko.

Another forehand winner from Djoko but he then goes horribly long when coming into the net and Rafa has Championships point. Djoko attempts a cheeky chip but this is Rafa Nadal!

The Spaniard charges in, dinks the ball back to Djoko, who attempts to lob Mr Athletic. Nadal climbs into the air and smashes the ball past Djoko.

Game, set and match Rafa Nadal. In 30 years of the Artois Championships can you remember a better final?

Now bring on Wimbledon!

Nadal 7-6 (8-6) 6-5 Djokovic
That last game took the stuffing out of Djoko. He was serving for the set when on top form yet still got broken. He looks dejected but unleashes surely the hardest forehand winner of the year to earn 40-15 and then wins another point down the line.

Djoko's suddenly at deuce but Rafa composes himself, kicks a serve high to Djoko's backhand and earns advantage. Rafa fires three or four laser-guided missiles and eventually Djoko goes wide.

Novak serving to stay in the match.

Nadal 7-6 (8-6) 5-5 Djokovic
Serving out the set against the world number two and a four-time Grand-Slam champion is easier said than done. Rafa passes Djoko to go 0-15 up and then Djoko, steaming in, could only find the net.

An unstoppable smash brings Novak back into contention and then the Serb calls Nadal's bluff - it looks like Rafa is going to flick a forehand down the line but Novak stays in the middle and, surprisingly, Rafa plays it straight to him.

But the Spaniard is up for this game - you can see it in his eyes and his strut. He flings himself at a deep Djoko forehand and lobs it onto the baseline and the defends for his life before the Serb goes wide.

The ultimate of ultimate rallies ends with Rafa netting but the world number two had the crowd on their feet by gaining another advantage with an awesome, simply awesome, drop-shot.

Excuse the long gambits but this match is so worth it!

Rafa nets and we're back at deuce but Novak goes long to put the 22-year-old back in the driving seat. Rafa wants this game and has Djoko chasing all over the place before going wide. It's break back time.

Nadal 7-6 (8-6) 4-5 Djokovic
Well, well, well. Djoko is clearly over the blip he experienced early in the set and a combination of his power and Rafa's errors take him to 0-40. Usually when firing uncharacteristically long, Rafa responds in style but, attempting to save the first of three break points, he sent a cross-court forehand wide.

That's a brilliant break from Djoko... not that he had to work too hard for it. The Serb is now serving for the set.

Nadal 7-6 (8-6) 4-4 Djokovic
This Nadal guy is almost superhuman. He played some outrageous groundstrokes to earn two break points at 15-40 and then, after slipping, leapt off the ground to half-volley Djoko's return. It was almost one of the best shots in history. Unfortunately for the Spaniard it fell between the tramlines.

Novak responded with admirable composure, pumping a serve into Rafa's body before sending him wide. Both returns were netted and then the Serb benefitted from a low bounce to beat Rafa with a forehand and take the game.

"'Rafa clearly hasn't got the skills to play on grass, these courts are way to quick for him to ever win' - that last set should clearly shut up those who doubt the Spaniard's incredible skills"
Philinthegarden via text on 81111

Nadal 7-6 (8-6) 4-3 Djokovic
That's much more like it from Rafa. His forehand is getting more and more accurate and, well, it wins him the game.

Nadal 7-6 (8-6) 3-3 Djokovic
It seems crazy think Djokovic and British number one Murray were, throughout their younger years, neck and neck in terms of their development. I know Murray has suffered one injury after the next but I've seen a lot of the Scot and Djoko is simply in a different class.

Anyway, back to the action. Djoko plays some stunning tennis to get himself to game point but a couple of unforced errors and some questionable shot selection allows Rafa back in. Rafa earns deuce with a wonderful top-spin cross-court winner as Djoko comes to the net but then Djoko powers his was to advantage by opening up and beating Rafa with a scintillating forehand.

Rafa nets and we're all square.

Nadal 7-6 (8-6) 3-2 Djokovic
Well, Rafa clearly isn't happy with these blisters on his hands and after serving his way to 40-15, Djoko passes him in style. The world number two comes through when Djoko goes long but this is going to be a fascinating set...I reckon anyway.

Nadal 7-6 (8-6) 2-2 Djokovic
A simple hold to love for Novak.

Meanwhile, Federer beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3 6-4 in the Halle final for those of you interested in the world number one's progress.

"Djokovic surprisingly breaks back and has stopped the rot. Good for the match and the paying fans. One cannot deny Djokovic's fighting qualities!"
PimBo on 606
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1552: Our Rafa (well, he's Spain's actually) is having treatment for blisters on his hands. Maybe they affected him as he was broken rather easily in the last game.

Nadal 7-6 (8-6) 2-1 Djokovic
Thank goodness I was wrong because I could watch these two all day long. In the blink of an eye Novak has raced to 0-40 on the Rafa serve and, although the Serb nets his first opportunity, he makes no mistake with the second - opening up and pounding a forehand down the line which Rafa can only put into the net.

We're back on level terms...if Novak holds serve that is!

Nadal 7-6 (8-6) 2-0 Djokovic
This could be over quicker than we expected. Djoko was in utterly dominant form at the start of the first set but things couldn't be more different in the second.

Djoko goes long to give Rafa 0-30 and, although Rafa then nets, the Serb is wrong-footed by a forehand, slips, does the splits and hands Rafa two break points.

Rafa can't convert the first but Djoko goes wide with the second and Rafa has struck. I hope I'm wrong but this match may not last much longer.

Nadal 7-6 (8-6) 1-0 Djokovic
After a simply breathtaking tie-breaker, Djoko goes long twice in the first game of the second set and then two cute top-spin forehands, one down the line and one cross court, give Rafa a the game to love.

Djoko has a massive fight on his hands to get back into this match. But if anyone can do it this season, it's the Serb.


Nadal 7-6 Djokovic (8-6)
Rafa seemed within touching distance of a mini-break on the very first point but Djoko lands a backhand on the baseline. Rafa thinks it's heading out and can only flick his forehand wide.

Djoko, indeed, goes on to take the first mini-break through sheer force with a backhand down the line that Rafa can only return into the net. Rafa doesn't take well to being broken, however, and bites back with an incredible passing shot. Djoko came into the net and Rafa's forehand pass was up there with the best this court has ever seen.

His bicep-pump celebration was fitting. I'm going to practice that when I'm next on court... not that I have Rafa's biceps.

The players exchange mini-breaks but Djoko just can't put Rafa away. The Serb misses a forehand and Rafa's back in this.

Djoko tightens up on a backhand down the line and goes wide to even things up at 5-5. Plenty of grunting as another marathon rally ensues and Djoko breaks back when Rafa fires a forehand wide via the net cord. Cue repeated chest-pumping from Novak and it's set point.

Novak is very much in the rally but slips at the crucial moment and it's 6-6 folks. Back on his feet, Novak goes wild with a forehand from the baseline and Rafa has set-point.

Does he take it?

Of course he does. Rafa kicks a serve wide and Djoko can only net. First set to Rafa.

Nadal 6-6 Djokovic
Nadal starts the game well but goes long to let Djoko back in at 30-30. The point of the day so far has Djoko sending Rafa running side to side - mesmerising stuff - and his forehand winner takes us to deuce.

Rafa come into the net and smashes his way to advantage and then Djoko goes long.

We have a tie-breaker.

"I heard the courts at Queen's are quite fast, which would favour Djokovic as he loves the fast surfaces. However, the Wimbledon courts are slower, which would b e better for the king of clay, Rafa? Is that correct?"
Anon via text on 81111

That's a good question. Those I speak to in the tennis world tell me that Wimbledon is getting slower and slower but I don't know about Queen's. Djoko came into this game as slight favourite with some bookies, but Rafa will surely go into Wimbledon with shorter odds than the Serb.

Any answers out there for Anon?

Nadal 5-6 Djokovic
It is often at times like these that champions often come into their own and it appears Rafa could be about to break at the perfect time when he unleashes a thumping forehand down the line that Djoko can only put back into the net.

But Novak remains calm and sticks to his game plan. Rarely has he entered into a war of attrition with Rafa today (who could possibly out-power those guns?!) and the 21-year-old's variety and movement take him to game point.

Novak commits an unforced error and then slips to hand Rafa deuce but a textbook forehand winners sees the Serb move to advantage and he closes out with... yes, you guessed it, a forehand winner.

Rafa will now serve to stay in the set.

Nadal 5-5 Djokovic
Admittedly, the first set hadn't been the most aesthetically appealing to this point. But that changes as Rafa finishes off a fierce rally but dinking a cute sliced backhand over the net. He serves out to love and so Novak rally must hold serve now.

Nadal 4-5 Djokovic
The boy Novak opens up by charging into the net and playing a delightful volleyed backhand winner. The Serb nets to let Rafa back in but he remains calm to pass his opponent with a dipping forehand. Rafa nets and then Djoko sends down an ace. That was a pretty easy hold for the world number three.

Nadal 4-4 Djokovic
It seems like both players are starting to conserve a little energy for their own service games but, of the two, Djoko looks a little more dangerous against serve still. He hauls Rafa in to 30-30 but a couple more unforced errors the Spaniard through.

"I hate all this rubbish about Nadal being rubbish in grass... the guy took FEDERER to five sets and almost beat him!"
oligold11 on 606
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Nadal 3-4 Djokovic
Anything you can do I can do...equally well. Novak hits back with a love service game. Another couple of aces and the Serb has neck just about in front.

This is a key game for Rafa to hold, obviously.

Nadal 3-3 Djokovic
Indifferent start behind him, Rafa strikes back. A love service game suggests he is finally into his grove. This set is now evenly balanced

"Nadal is not an all-round tennis player. He can only win on clay, where arguably tennis skills aren't required so much as hitting balls as hard as you can. I expect him to lose this in straight sets and claim he was tired or something. He won't get near winning Wimbledon, as only the greats can win there."
mysteriousblablabla on 606
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"This is almost impossible for Nadal to win I feel - the surface is just too fast for him against a flat power hitter. He can handle the big servers nowadays, just, but he's going to lose rallies here as well."
philosophicalarfster on 606
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Nadal 2-3 Djokovic
Buoyed by his blistering start, Djoko get even more adventurous and commits a number of unforced errors to fall 15-40 down on serve. His first save came when a venomous serve eschews off Rafa's frame. At 30-40 he simply overpowers Rafa but then the Spaniard earns advantage when Djoko nets.

Djoko successfully challenges a ball from Rafa that was called in but then goes long. He's not making things easy for himself here. Djoko nets and it's break back time ladies and gentlemen.

Federer watch: Roger has won the first set 6-3 against Philipp Kohlschreiber in the Halle final.

Nadal 1-3 Djokovic
With a break of serve already in the bag, Djoko knows this is pretty much a free game. Rafa comes to the net for the first meaningful time and, after Djoko goes long, takes a 30-0 lead.

Djoko offers his first less-than-crashing groundstroke of the afternoon and Nadal punishes him with a winner. But roles are then reversed Novak is back in this. He earns himself deuce but then can only find the net to put Rafa a point away from his first game of the match.

But he's facing an opponent who will give nothing away for free and Rafa comes up with a delicious sliced backhand winner that wrong-foots Rafa. After netting tamely, Djoko is back on the ball and sends Rafa side to side before producing another forehand winner.

Djoko is playing some beautiful tennis and looks dominant from the baseline. Yes, you heard it right, dominant from the baseline against Rafa Nadal. The Serb earns himself break point, which Rafa saves with a trademark disguised forehand winner and then Djoko nets a drop-shot. Rafa holds to put his first game on the board with an ace.

Simple as that.

100 on Nadal to win. Happy to share the winnings."
Annon via text on 81111

Share your winnings with me all you like, although this doesn't seem to be going Rafa's way so far.

Nadal 0-3 Djokovic
"I'm a little tired" said Rafa, who has won 11 matches in three weeks, before this match, and we might just be starting to see some fatigue from the world number two.

He is struggling to find his normal rhythm and a handful of unforced errors, allied to a stunning backhand winner, give Djoko a love service game

Nadal 0-2 Djokovic
Novak has come out all guns blazing and at first Rafa doesn't know what's hit him. He fails to control a fierce Djoko groundstroke and skies high and wide. Rafa then nets to send Djoko to 0-30 and an outrageously powerful forehand winner leaves Rafa chasing shadows and sends Djoko 0-40 up.

Djoko went in for the kill but his forehand approach shot went falls in between the tramlines and he then goes long. Novak still has one break point but Rafa saves with a well-disguised drop-shot.

One player is dominating the rallies, however, and it's the world number three from Serbia. He thumps another forehand down the line which Rafa scrambles to before netting and, following a marathon rally, Djoko comes into the net and again Rafa nets.

That's our first break of serve, folks!

Nadal 0-1 Djokovic
Both players play into the net before Novak comes to the net and moves to 30-15. A couple of tam-ish points are exchanged as Rafa hauls Serbia's finest in to deuce.

Djoko nets a straight-forward forehand to give the Spaniard an immediate break point but an uncharacteristic unforced error from Rafa levels things up. The 22-year-old skies his attempted return off Novak's serve to give the Serb game point and he closes out with aplomb.

1421: We're just about ready to go. While world number one Roger Federer's main two challenges for the Wimbledon title Federer battle it out, Federer himself plays Philipp Kohlschreiber in the final of the grass court event in Halle. Fed is attempting to extend his unbeaten run on grass to 59 matches.

I'll let you know what happens there, too.

1420: "20 on the Djoko to win. Don't let me down!"
Lew via text on 81111

1415: The players are warming up. Rafa is, as always, sporting his sleeveless lightning green top and pirate (as Nike refer to them) shorts. Djoko is in white shorts and his grey and white top.

Both players progressed through their semi-finals comfortably - Rafa beat reigning champion Andy Roddick and Djoko crushed David Nalbandian.

P.S. Have you ever seen a tennis player as crazily dressed as Rafa? It'd like to here your thoughts.
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1412: Oh how chuffed the event organisers must have been to have these two lads playing this year. Two genuine crowd-pullers. Nadal, 22, and Djokovic, 21, have met 11 times in the past and Rafa holds and 8-3 head-to-head advantage.

They have met just once before on grass - at Wimbledon last year - and the Majorcan prevailed 3-6 6-1 4-1 after Serbia's Djoko retired hurt.

This could be epic as both players are at the top of their games.

1408: Rafa tells BBC Sport: "Whether I lose or win this has been a very good tournament for me and Djokovic is playing well. If I win, amazing. If I lose, I lose. I will be trying 500% to win."

And Djoko: "I've been serving really well and this has been the best I have ever played on grass. I need to step up my game against Rafa, though."

1403: What I'd like most is to hear your views on the action. So, if you may, joined the debate on 606 or text TENNIS and your comments to 81111.
Join the debate on 606

1400: This should be rather good. The two in-form players on the men's tour go head-to-head at Queen's and what we do know is a new champion will be crowned. In fact, we will have the first non-American or Australian since Boris Becker triumphed in 1996.

1355: Can he do it? Can he become the first player to win the French Open and the Queen's Club title in the same summer?

French Open champion Rafa Nadal takes on Australia Open winner Novak Djokovic in the 2008 Artois Championships final and I'm here to guide you through the action.

see also
Nadal to play Djokovic in final
14 Jun 08 |  Tennis

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