Rafael Nadal discusses how he began to mentally turn the corner against world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who had scored seven straight wins against him. That streak, which began at Indian Wells in March 2011 and stretched through the final of the Australian Open in January 2012, also included victories in the 2011 Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals.
Nadal defeated Djokovic in the U.S. Open final on Monday, his sixth win against the Serbian in their last seven matches.
“Sometimes I really don't know how I am able to beat him at all,” Nadal told a small group of reporters with a laugh. “But maybe he felt something similar and that's the most important thing: I know that I am playing at my limits when I am playing against him, and I have big hopes he feels something similar to me."
The second-ranked Spaniard said winning the third-set tiebreaker in the 2011 U.S. Open final gave him hope there was a way to play Djokovic, and his loss in the 2012 Australian Open final gave him the confidence he could beat his rival.
“I was able to forget a little what happened. Because when you are in bad dynamic like I was in 2011—I remember before the final of the U.S. Open I was in the locker room and I was not convinced I would have the chance to win. But the third set of that day [which Nadal won 7-6 (3)] was very important. I was able to change that situation, to fight more than in previous matches against him and there was a way for me to play, fight for every ball and play aggressive. There were a lot of amazing points in that set and you couldn’t hear the ball because the crowd was so crazy. That means it was very high quality.
"I had to wait a little bit increase my level again and for him to lose a little confidence in his game. In Australia I felt like I had changed the dynamic against him even though I lost. After that I felt I had found a way to beat him.”