For nearly three years, Rafael Nadal suffered at the hands of Novak Djokovic, but on Saturday, the Spaniard got the better of the Serb in two straight sets of 6-2 6-4 to qualify for the Madrid Open final - which he has won four times.
Indeed, even with Djokovic opening serve, Nadal won the first four points for an immediate break, helped by a couple of uncharacteristic errors from the Serb.
Djokovic won the last meeting between the pair in the quarter-finals of the Rome Masters exactly a year ago, and Nadal had not beaten the 12-time grand slam victor since the 2014 French Open final.
And Nadal was forced to save a break point in the final game with a drop shot Djokovic couldn't get back over the net.
Rafa had lost seving straight matches and 15 straight sets to Djokovic since the 2014 French Open final.
Ronaldo, it goes without saying, is the talisman and beating heart of the Madrid side.
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Holmes (70) hit his tee shot at No. 17 to within 5 feet and Stanley (72) followed with an even closer strike, to less than 3 feet. The Northern Irishman made the ideal start with a birdie on the first, but the four-time major victor then bogeyed the fifth.
"I know Novak has made some changes in his coaching staff and I am sure he is a rival who is going to battle for all of the major titles in the future", added Nadal who will now face either Pablo Cuevas or Domenic Thiem in Sunday's final. Djokovic once again appeared tired and out-of-sorts during the contest, though a lot of that had to do with Nadal's ferocious power. "The only way to win these kinds of tournaments, because you are playing some of the best players in the world, so you have to play at a very high level to be able to beat them".
Nadal, a four-time Madrid champion, improved to 14-0 on clay this season and reached the final of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event for the seventh time in nine years.
However, the Spaniard added: "It's one more match".
"What's important to me is to make it to another final", said Nadal.
"I felt comfortable hitting the ball the last few days, physically ready, mentally sharp as well".
A year on from a triumph that suggested Murray had finally mastered the toughest surface of them all, the 29-year-old is back to square one after a humiliating exit to unseeded 20-year-old Croat Borna Coric before the business end of the Madrid Masters began earlier this week.
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And on this evidence he needs new guidance as quickly as possible if he is to defend his French Open title as two more forehand errors gifted Nadal another break at the start of the second set.
I could have played better today. "As I go along, I hope to continue getting better and getting stronger".
"I can't be any happier", Nadal said.
Given his past record in Rome - Nadal won seven titles from 2005 to 2013 - the 30-year-old Spaniard can look forward to a rousing reception from the notoriously noisy Rome crowd. "To win against Novak with that score, you should be playing very well", Nadal said. "His quality was very high and he managed to do whatever he wanted, especially in the first set".
Nadal, a four-time victor in the Spanish capital, will prove a much sterner examination following his stunning straight-sets success over holder Novak Djokovic. I take, as I say, more positives than negatives into the next week in Rome.
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