Revisiting Legends: Futures Players Recreate Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic Marathon

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic played a memorable 2009 Madrid Masters semi-final, with the Spaniard prevailing 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 in four hours and three minutes! Fifteen years later, M25 Hammamet Futures generated an even more thrilling contest as Dominik Kellovsky ousted Jay Clarke 7-5, 6-7, 7-6 in mind-blowing four hours and ten minutes!

It was an outstanding battle on clay-court in Tunisia, with two rivals pushing each other to the limits from start to finish. They stayed within two games throughout sets two and three, and it all came down to the deciding tie break of the final set.

Kellovsky claimed three points more than his rival, with 279 points up for grabs, 34 more than what Nadal and Djokovic delivered in Madrid.Rafael Nadal, Madrid 2009© Jasper Juinen / Staff – Getty Images Sport

Dominik and Jay stayed neck and neck behind the first and second serve.

They generated 37 break points (only ten in the duel between Rafa and Novak), with Kellovsky scoring seven breaks and Clarke six. The Czech saved a break point in the encounter’s first game, avoiding an early setback. He broke his rival in the second game and held after deuce at 2-0 to cement the lead and settle into a fine rhythm.

Jay survived the opponent’s three game points in game five and pulled the break back, returning to the positive side. The Briton gained a boost and clinched another break in game seven, moving in front and serving at 4-3. He hit two double faults in the eighth game, losing serve and bringing the Czech back to the positive side.

They served well in games nine and ten, and Dominik fired an ace after deuce at 5-5, keeping the pressure on the other side. Clarke served to introduce a tie break in game 12 and suffered a break at 15, handing the opener to Kellovsky after 71 minutes.

The second set reached a tie break and lasted even longer, with two rivals battling for over two and a half hours before kicking off a decider! Dominik denied four break points in the first game and squandered two break chances in the next one.

The Briton clinched the third break chance at 1-1, moving in front and holding at 30 in the next one for a 3-1 lead. Kellovsky served well in the fifth game and pulled the break back in the next one, locking the result at 3-3.

Novak Djokovic, Madrid 2009© Clive Brunskill / Staff – Getty Images Sport


Dominik Kellovsky and Jay Clarke battled for four hours and ten minutes in Tunisia.

Clarke clinched another break in game seven and looked good to confirm it in the next one.

Jay squandered a 40-0 lead and got broken on Dominik’s second break chance, bringing his rival back to the positive side. The Czech lost serve in the 11th game and broke back at love a few minutes later to introduce a tie break.

Clarke forged a 4-2 advantage and claimed it 7-4 to force a decider and add more drama. Kellovsky made a fresh start and clinched a break at the beginning of the final set. The Czech saved three break points in the fourth game and moved 3-1 up before creating more chances on the return in the next one.

Jay denied four break points, reducing the deficit and staying one break behind. That game became even more critical when the Briton broke back in game six, leveling the score at 3-3 and gaining confidence. They served well in the next four games and reached 5-5, with no room for errors in the rest of the duel.

Clarke produced an incredible hold in game 11, overcoming a 40-0 deficit and denying four break points to secure a tie break. Kellovsky confirmed it with a hold at 15 in game 12, introducing a thriller. Dominik forged a 5-1 advantage before losing the following three points.

The Czech grabbed the tenth point, creating two match points. Clarke saved the first, reducing the deficit to 6-5 before Kellovsky seized the second, winning the tie break 7-5 and wrapping up an epic duel after a grueling four hours and ten minutes.

Rafael Nadal, Madrid 2009© Clive Brunskill / Staff – Getty Images Sport

As mentioned, Nadal and Djokovic played a cracker in Madrid 15 years ago, writing history books after embracing one of the most extended regular best-of-three ATP matches.

Novak sought his first victory over Rafa on clay and could not have stood closer, winning the opener and embracing three match points. The home player kept his focus and delivered one of his most thrilling victories ever. Thus, the Spaniard extended his streak on clay that year, having already conquered Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Rome.

Djokovic won five points more than Nadal and kept the pressure on the other side after losing serve once from only two break chances offered to his rival! Nadal played against eight break points and defended six to reduce the deficit, taking both tie breaks to make the difference.

Novak added more winners and fewer unforced errors to his name. He overpowered Nadal in the most extended exchanges but could not bring the victory home despite standing a point away from it.

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