Madrid:An exasperated Novak Djokovic was left searching for answers after his toughest loss yet to Rafael Nadal.
Nadal saved three match points to complete a 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (9) comeback win over Djokovic to reach the Madrid Open final on Saturday.
Despite nearly topping the Spaniard in front of his home crowd, Djokovic will likely best remember the blown opportunities that led to his fifth straight defeat at the hands of Nadal in the longest three-set match in Masters Series history.
"Next time I'll probably take two rackets on the match point and try to hit them past him. I don't know what to do," Djokovic said. "If I knew I would probably win."
Djokovic will still go into the French Open on a good run as world No. 4 but knows that if he crosses Nadal again, he is 0-9 against the four-time defending champion on the dirt.
All four defeats to Nadal this year have come on clay, too.
"In some points of the match I played even above my limits. And that was especially in the match points I had," a red-eyed Djokovic said after the 4-hour, 3-minute match. "It's frustrating when you play so well and you can't win. A couple of points decided the winner."
The top-ranked Nadal is 10-3 against the fourth-ranked Serb at the semifinals stage or better.
"It happened too often," Djokovic said. "So I'm very disappointed that I can play this well and still not win a match. The positives are I'm one point away from the victory."
Roger Federer, who has suffered his fair share of tough losses to Nadal, preferred not to offer any recovery advice to rival Djokovic.
"Being so close yet so far, obviously it's going to hurt," Federer said after beating Juan Martin del Potro to play Nadal in a final for the 16th time.
Nadal is 11-4 in the previous 15 and reduced Federer to tears after the last at the Australian Open in February. That left Federer one title shy of matching Pete Sampras' record 14 Grand Slam titles.
The second-ranked Swiss has lost five straight finals to Nadal, including at the French Open and Wimbledon.
"It was good tennis, it's not like he gave away the match," Federer said of Djokovic's performance.