“With the way I played, I had to enjoy, had to feel good about myself,” says Djokovic
The ever-lengthening rivalry between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal has been best defined by sweat and toil, by trophies earned after hours of titanic rallies and risk.
But Sunday’s final at the Sony Open was more haiku than epic poem: a bravura Djokovic performance in which he consistently seemed a shot and an idea ahead.
His 6-3, 6-3 victory in their 40th encounter was one of the most lopsided in their series, and it again kept Nadal from winning this Masters 1000 title in a community and a stadium brimming with fellow Spanish speakers.
“I played a few games and a few points the right way, with right intensity,” Nadal said. “But for the rest, easy to analyze. The opponent was better than me. Thats it.”
“With the way I played, I had to enjoy, had to feel good about myself,” Djokovic said. “And I was very confident in the court. But I did not want to lose focus for a second, because I knew that Rafa is a kind of a player that if you allow him, if you give him a chance, he’s going to capitalize.”
He has won their last three matches, all in straight sets, and has narrowed the gap in their head-to-head record, which is now 22-18 in Nadals favor.
Sunday’s victory gave Djokovic his fourth title in Key Biscayne and also allowed him to sweep the March hardcourt swing in the United States after beating Roger Federer in the final in Indian Wells.
On Sunday, Djokovic was much tighter to the baseline and able to control the majority of the rallies and keep Nadal off balance.
Djokovic’s serve was also brutally effective. Djokovic won 61 points to Nadals 40, ripping well-disguised ground stroke winners from extreme, well-earned angles and hitting technically sound volley winners off Nadals dipping passing shots.
They both finished the match at the net, with Djokovic answering Nadal’s backhand volley with a low winner. Nadal twisted to watch it pass, and after it bounced twice, Djokovic spread his arms, released his racket and fell slowly backward onto the court. — New York Times News Service