Streaking Djokovic outslugs Nadal for Key Biscayne title

Posted: 04/04/2011 in ATP
Djokovic outlasts Nadal for Miami crown
Novak Djokovic continued his perfect start to the 2011 tennis season with a three-set triumph over world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the title match of the Sony Ericsson Open. Djokovic gutted out a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) triumph to earn his fourth title of the year in as many events, and he’s done so against impressive competition to run his match record to 24-0.

“It was one of the closest and best finals that I have played ever,” Djokovic said. “It’s the best four months in my life. But it’s only the start of the season … Still, this streak is incredible, and I want to keep on working hard and try to get more success.”

The Serb won the Australian Open crown to start the season, beating Andy Murray in the final for his second career Grand Slam championship, then topped Roger Federer for the Dubai crown in February before knocking off Nadal in both of the Masters events — first at Indian Wells last month and now in Miami.

It was the first matchup of the top seeds in the Miami final since 1995, when Andre Agassi knocked off top-seeded Pete Sampras in a third-set tiebreak, and Sunday’s tilt lived up to its advanced billing.

Each player held serve throughout the third set, then neither managed to win a point on serve over the first five points of the tiebreak. Djokovic won the fourth point to even it at 2-2, starting a run of five straight to take command.

An untimely double fault by Nadal made it 3-2 in favor of Djokovic, who also won the next three points — the last with a forehand winner — to grab a 6-2 edge. Nadal managed to prolong the match by winning the next two points, but a blistering forehand eluded the Spaniard and gave Djokovic his 22nd career title and second in Miami.

“I was there fighting until the last point. Nothing left in my body right now,” an exhausted Nadal said. “He’s very good … He’s playing with big confidence.”

Djokovic, who also won this title in 2007 and was the runner-up in 2009, has won his last 26 matches dating back to the 2010 season. He helped Serbia win the Davis Cup with a pair of singles victories last December and hasn’t lost since falling to Federer in the semifinals at the ATP World Tour Finals last November 27.

Nadal, meanwhile, failed to build on his record 18 Masters titles and was beaten in the Miami final for a third time. He also lost in 2005 to Federer and in 2008 against Nikolay Davydenko.

Djokovic wasn’t broken during the tournament until the first set Sunday.

Nadal picked up the first break of serve with a perfect backhand pass for a 2-1 lead in the first set, then had to save three break points against his own serve in the very next game.

After Djokovic missed wide with a backhand on the first break chance, the two engaged in a 27-stroke rally that finally ended with a Nadal forehand winner into the corner. Djokovic again earned another break point soon after, but drilled a forehand into the net and Nadal finally held.

Nadal then easily broke serve again in the next game and fought off another break point against his serve to open a commanding 5-1 edge. After Djokovic held at love, he battled for another break point and finally converted when Nadal sent a forehand into the net.

Djokovic blew all of a 40-0 lead in the next game, as Nadal forced it to deuce, but the Serb regained his composure and won the next two points. Nadal, though, finally prevailed in the set when Djokovic fired a forehand into the net.

However, the momentum Djokovic built late in the opening set carried into the second. After he held serve to start it, a quick break and a hold gave him a 3-0 edge. He did not relinquish the advantage and held serve at love in the ninth game, firing up an ace on the final point to send the match to a third set.

Djokovic became the first man to win at Indian Wells and Miami in the same year since Federer in 2006. His 24-match win streak to start the season is the third-longest, behind John McEnroe’s 39 straight in 1984 and Ivan Lendl’s 25 in a row in 1986.

Despite the loss, Nadal still owns a record of 16-9 against Djokovic, but the Serb owns a 9-5 mark on hard courts.

Djokovic collected a first prize of $611,000.

– Steve


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