Unbeatable Djokovic Denies Nadal To Claim Crown
Indian Wells, U.S.A.
Novak Djokovic just cannot stop winning. The Serb extended his unbeaten run to 20 matches as he came from a set down to defeat World No. 1 Rafael Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in a gripping finale at the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday.
The 23-year-old Djokovic has not lost a match since falling to Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals last November, leading his country to Davis Cup glory in December before beginning the 2011 season with victories at the Australian Open (d. Murray) and the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (d. Federer).
“I don't think anybody is unbeatable. I do have the best period of my life on the tennis court, but nobody is invincible,” he said. “Still you are just trying to play your best in each match you're playing.”
Just three months into the 2011 ATP World Tour season, Djokovic has laid down a strong claim for one of the coveted eight berths at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 20-27 November. He received a further 1000 South African Airways 2011 ATP Ranking points with victory in Indian Wells.
Victory marked Djokovic’s 21st tour-level title and his sixth ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown. It is the second time he has tasted glory at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, having previously lifted the trophy in 2008 with victory over Mardy Fish. He also reached the final in 2007, when he came up short against Nadal.
A day earlier, in a semi-final clash that also had the No. 2 South African Airways 2011 ATP Ranking on the line, Djokovic had defeated Federer, making him the third player to beat Nadal and Federer in the same tournament on two occasions, joining Nikolay Davydenko and David Nalbandian. He first defeated the duo in back-to-back matches at the 2007 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Montreal.
“I am playing with a lot of confidence,” said Djokovic. “I'm feeling the ball well on the court. I'm very dedicated. I have a big will to win each match I'm playing on, so it will not stop here, definitely. I want to keep on going and keep on playing good tennis. Hopefully I can recover and get ready for Miami.”
In a first set filled with punishing baseline rallies and high-quality exchanges, breaks were swapped in the fifth and sixth games before Nadal broke decisively to lead 4-3 as he broke down Djokovic’s backhand to draw the error. He then closed out the one-set lead with a love service game.
Nadal had looked strong on serve, reeling off 16 straight points from 4-3 in the first set to level at 2-2 in the second set. However, inexplicably, he lost all consistency on his first serve and paid the price as Djokovic broke to lead 4-2.
Djokovic too suffered a dip in form from his high standards of the first set, though, and immediately relinquished the advantage. But he regained his lead in the eighth game before closing out the set in a shaky service game, which saw him squander five set points and save a break point before converting his sixth opportunity, leaving the Spaniard to rue a first serve percentage of just 25 per cent.
“It was just the question of momentum,” said Djokovic. “ I managed to hold that very important game at 5-3 and then I was on a roll. I felt that this is the time when I had to use my opportunity and step in and be more aggressive and take it to him, and that's what I did. Again, it was just a couple of points in the end of the second set that kind of turned the match around.”
Nadal failed to regain his rhythm on serve in the third set and quickly fell a double-break behind as Djokovic, brimming with confidence, put his opponent to the sword with ruthless efficiency. He gave Nadal no chance to recover and wrapped up victory with a love service game in two hours and 25 minutes.
It was the first time in six attempts that Djokovic had beaten Nadal in a tour-level final, having fallen to the Spaniard most recently in the US Open championship match.
“The serve was the difference today in my opinion,” said Nadal. “It's true I played with less intensity after the first set, but I think everything is because of the serve. So just congratulate him. I think he did better than possible to start one season. He's playing well. He's in the right place at the right moment, so all the best for him for the rest of the season.”
The 24-year-old Nadal was chasing a 19th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title and a third title in Indian Wells, having previously triumphed in 2007 and 2009 (d. Murray). His progress at the start of the 2011 season has been impeded by illness in Doha followed by an enforced five-week injury lay-off after losing in the Australian Open quarter-finals (l. to Ferrer).|
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