Nadal prevailed 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(9) in what was the longest three-set match in ATP Masters 1000 history at four hours and three minutes. Djokovic won more points on the day (125 to 120), but the Spaniard bravely saved three match points at 5/6, 6/7 and 8/9 in the final-set tie-break.
“In a game like that with so many match points I think you need luck to win,” said Nadal after the match. “But I played with great courage and I think everything went well for me.”
The pair are in opposite halves of this year’s draw in Madrid as the top two seeds. World No. 1 Djokovic starts against a qualifier or Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, while Nadal will face a Canadian #NextGenATP player in Felix Auger-Aliassime or 2018 semi-finalist Denis Shapovalov.