Novak Djokovic sends out strong message with victory over Nadal
Serb in convincing form to retain his ATP World Tour Finals title
Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates victory over Rafael Nadal of Spain in last night’s ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena, London. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Novak Djokovic sent a strong message to Rafael Nadal and all his rivals with a convincing victory over the world number one to retain his Barclays ATP World Tour Finals title.
After losing the US Open final to Nadal, Djokovic has won 22 straight matches and used the indoor conditions to his advantage to win 6-3 6-4.
The three-time defending Australian Open champion will now head into 2014 halfway to bettering his incredible 43-match unbeaten run in 2011.
Nadal lost his only other final at London’s O2 Arena to Roger Federer three years ago, and it remains the one major title he has not yet won.
Djokovic took first blood. After a fast start the Serbian was pegged back but he broke world number one Nadal for a second time and took the set 6-3. It was fitting that the season was brought to an end by a 39th meeting between the two standout players of it.
Nadal led 22-16 overall and 3-2 this season, winning both their grand slam meetings in the French Open semi-finals and US Open final.
The New York triumph made it inevitable he would take Djokovic’s number one ranking, but being usurped has given the Serbian an extra edge. Since that September day he had won 21 straight matches, including a dominant win over Nadal in the final in Beijing last month. Neither man had been beaten at the O2 this week but the surface seemed to just give Djokovic the advantage and he set about showing that, exploiting some early hesitancy from his opponent to move into a 3-0 lead.
It could have been four straight games but Djokovic missed a makeable backhand and a roar of annoyance told just how important he thought that was.
Both men looked nervy and some wild shots from the defending champion helped Nadal break back for 2-3. Double faults were really hurting the Spaniard, though, and a fourth of the match gave Djokovic a second break point in the eighth game.
Nadal had saved the first with an excellent serve, and he thought he had done the same again but Djokovic somehow scrambled a lob off a volley and roared long and loud when he eventually won the point. That left him serving for the set and he clinched it with a second ace.
Nadal was simply not managing to hit winners against his fellow defensive master, but it was Djokovic’s attacking that forced the error from the Spaniard as he conceded another break in the third game of the second set.
Nadal’s fearsome forehand was letting him down as he tried to take the attack to Djokovic, but he was having very little success on the Serbian’s serve.
Djokovic’s volleying was one of the most impressive parts of what in truth was not a great match, and more excellent net play gave him two chances to lead 5-2, but this time Nadal was up to the challenge. He then saved a match point with a fine backhand, and kept Djokovic waiting for a bit longer when he won a lengthy rally to save a second, but on the third chance Nadal drove a forehand wide.