ESPN gives some ink to the forgotten one, who many tap as the one with the best chance to take down The Pink Bull:
"His game matches up better [with Nadal's] than Roger's does on clay. He's more solid off both wings. He's a little bit better defender. He's got that penetrating two-handed backhand, he can just rip it crosscourt and maybe you get Rafa stretched out wide on the forehand. Then you attack his backhand. It's hard to believe he's going to beat Rafa on clay in a best-of-five, but then again, it's hard to believe anyone's going to beat him."
Djokovic wisely has refrained from making any bold proclamations about being the world's second-best clay-court player, but before the tournament started, he did admit that Madrid "gave me even more self belief that … in our next encounter I might win against him." "If you talk about my matches on this clay-court season against Rafa, you know, basically looking at each match getting closer and closer," Djokovic said. "So there's only one more point to go. But it's not that easy. Again, I'm saying I played probably one of the best matches in my life against him on the clay court, even though I lost it.
"I must be proud of myself with the way I performed. And as I was saying to my coach after the match, you know, if I didn't go for the shots, if I wasn't aggressive enough when I needed to be on the match points, I would be angry with myself. But it was the opposite way. You know, he had to make some unbelievable shots to win those points, which he did, again."
The quality of the match was so high that Nadal's mentor, Carlos Moya, felt compelled to tell Djokovic it was the best three-set match he'd ever seen played on clay. ESPN analyst Mary Carillo agreed.
"Honestly, there was nothing between them," Carillo said of Djokovic and Nadal. "He went after Nadal, he was aggressive when he needed to be, he was very smart. And it took everything Nadal had to turn him back. I have not seen Roger do that to him. "
He'll have to get past Fed first. But it's nice to see Nole getting the respect that he deserves.