09
May
11

“It is a very special day for me. It’s the first time I’ve managed to beat Rafa on claycourts.”

Djokovic

Novak Djokovic reflected on a “very special day” after continuing his stunning form with his first-ever claycourt victory over Rafael Nadal in the final of the Madrid Open. Djokovic, the world number two, made it 32 wins from 32 matches in 2011 and clinched his sixth title of the year by defeating home favourite and defending champion Nadal 7-5 6-4 in two hours and 17 minutes. That was Djokovic’s first win in 10 meetings with Nadal on clay, while it also brought an end to the Spaniard’s 37-match winning streak on the surface – a run stretching back almost two years.

“It is a very special day for me. It’s the first time I’ve managed to beat Rafa on claycourts,” said the second seed, whose current winning streak is the second-best start to an ATP season since 1975, with John McEnroe holding the record with 42 successive triumphs in 1984. “I played a great match from the first to the last point. I arrived at the court believing I could win and I guess that was the only way I could get a win in the end,” Djokovic added.

Nadal said after the defeat: “I didn’t play my best tennis and he played very well, he played fantastic at times, it was very difficult to stop him when he played his backhand. “I didn’t play my best in the semi-finals and final, the conditions here are always a bit more difficult but that’s definitely not an excuse.” The last time the two players met here, in the 2009 semi-finals, it needed more than four hours to separate the pair before Nadal recorded a 6-3 7-6 (7/5) 7-6 (11/9) victory, and it was a similarly captivating contest on Sunday – albeit in around half the time.

The match was a rollercoaster ride right from the outset, with Djokovic saving two break points in the opening game of the first set before then twice breaking Nadal in succession to race into a 4-0 lead. It was looking worrying for Nadal at that stage but, backed by a partisan crowd at La Caja Magica, he pulled a break back in the fifth game, aided by a Djokovic double fault on the decisive point, and then did the same in the ninth game. The momentum looked to have dramatically shifted to Nadal, but Djokovic recovered and forced three set points on his opponent’s serve in the next game, the 10th of the set. Nadal managed to save all of them, but it was to prove only a brief reprieve for the Spaniard as Djokovic won the next eight successive points – including breaking Nadal to love in the 12th game with the help of two fortunate net-cord bounces – to take the first set.

The second set started in similarly remarkable fashion as the first had ended, with Nadal gaining revenge for the previous game by also breaking Djokovic to love – one of the Spaniard’s winners being a brilliant through-the-legs lob that sent the Madrid crowd wild. Once again, though, Djokovic hit back straight away, breaking Nadal’s serve in the next game to level the scores up at 1-1. Djokovic could not make the most of another break point in the fourth game, but there was no denying the flying Serbian and in the 10th game of the second set he raced into a 15-40 lead before breaking Nadal to clinch a thrilling victory. Nadal, who has now lost three finals to Djokovic this year, said of his opponent: “He’s playing fantastic right now, he’s playing aggressive, without mistakes. His movements are unbelievable, I just congratulate him for everything he’s doing. Winning every match this year is something that is very difficult to repeat.”

 

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