It seems even world number one Rafael Nadal can't stop the juggernaut that is Novak Djokovic. In the final of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, world number two Djokovic beat Nadal in a thriller to extend his unbeaten run in 2011 to 24-0.
The Serbian came back from an opening set loss to clinch a 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4) victory for his seventh Masters Series win and the fourth title of the year.
Much like the Indian Wells final two weeks ago, it was Nadal who claimed the opening set before falling to a Djokovic comeback. Both players were struggling to cope with the fiery wind, but Nadal coped better and grabbed his first break in game three. He then battled off three break points in the next game before bagging a double break to go up 5-1.
However, Djokovic refused to ease up as he found his rhythm and aggressively had Nadal cover a lot of the court. Djokovic battled back to make it 5-4 and though his Spanish opponent clinched the set, it was the Serbian who had all the momentum and he carried it into the next set, winning six games off seven to go up 3-0. From there on, it was Djokovic's set to lose. He held serve and pushed the game into the decider.
And what a decider it was. Both players displayed their very best in a wrestle for momentum and it needed a tie-breaker to decide the winner. Surprisingly, Nadal was getting the best off his backhand while Djokovic oozed class with some sublime lobs and ventures into the net.
As it panned out, neither player broke the other en route to the tie-breaker and it was not one for the weak-hearted as there were five successive points against serve. However, it was nerves that cost him, maybe. Nadal's double fault at 2-2 saw him go down 3-2 before Djokovic finally held service point. Nadal did save two match points while on serve but the Serb smashed a serve down before crashing the forehand into the corner, well out of Nadal's reach, to clinch the title in three hours and 21 minutes.
After the match, Nadal was impressed by Djokovic's run and admitted his position of world number one could not last long. I think he'll be number one. He won two tournaments in a row right now, very big tournaments and one Grand Slam. The normal thing is he will be number one in the next month, month and a half, two months. I don't know. It depends on my results on clay.
For sure, he will be there, no? I'm going to fight for me. If I am solid, if I play a very good clay-court season, we will see what's going on after.
However, Djokovic thought it was too early to be talking about the top spot, saying consistency is the key if he is to go on and take it. Stats show Djokovic still has a lot to do if he has to become world number one. Though he is a little over 1000 ranking points ahead of third-ranked Roger Federer, there still is a massive gap of 3000 points between himself and Nadal. What remains key is the Serb's performance on clay and in the upcoming French Open.
He said, I know I've had the best start of the season, no question about it. It's the best four months in my life. But it's only the start of the season. I think it's a bit early to talk about getting that top spot in the rankings. Rafa is definitely the best player in the world now.
If I want to have that shot at the number one ranking, I need to play consistently well throughout the whole year. We all know that clay court is his favourite surface and obviously somewhere where he plays his best.
But this is going to give a lot of confidence boost for the upcoming clay-court season.
About the match, he went on, It was such a close match. To win against the number one player of the world in a tie-break in the third set, it's just incredible. This is one of the best matches I've played in a while. I was able to find my rhythm at the end of the first set, and then throughout the whole second and third set I played quite well, especially on my service games.