Novak Djokovic may have relinquished the year-end No. 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal but in the climax to the ATP season, he showed that he’s primed for a mighty challenge to get it back in 2014. In the final of the ATP World Tour finals, Djokovic was immense as he beat Nadal in straight sets to claim the year-end showpiece for the second-straight year and for the third time in his career.
For Nadal, despite an incredible season in which he overcame a seven-month injury layoff to claim 10 titles, the one major trophy he has yet to win in his gloried career continues to elude him. Both men had taken 100 percent records from the week spent at London’s O2 Arena into the final, but it was Djokovic who continued his dominance since losing the final of the U.S. Open to Nadal in September, taking it 6-3, 6-4 in 96 minutes.
The tone was set right from the off as Djokovic broke Nadal in his opening service game. The set might have been even more straightforward had he not missed with a backhand down the line on a chance to take a 4-0 lead. Instead, Nadal would gain the ascendency for the first, and as it would turn out only, time in the contest. He broke to get the first set back on serve, but it would prove to only be a temporary reprieve.
The key point of the match, and one that embodied the difference between the pair on this night, came with Nadal facing a break point at 3-4. Djokovic showed off some incredible defense to slide out wide and produce a stunning lob over Nadal before eventually finishing the point at the net to the rapturous acclaim of the crowd. He would go onto serve out the set, helped by a fortunate net cord that denied Nadal two chances to break back.
The second set was more of a formality after Djokovic again broke Nadal in his first service game. While Djokovic was so solid from the back of the court, while putting his opponent under pressure coming forward, Nadal couldn’t find his best form, too often missing the target as he tried to be aggressive.
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What Nadal did still have was his phenomenal competitiveness on every point and that fighting spirit ensured that the second set was more of a contest in terms of the score line than the disparity in quality between the two men suggested.
Nadal saved a break point at 2-4 and at 3-5 a match point. With the packed crowd cheering Nadal on and eager for more tennis, the French and U.S. Open champion saved another match point in the next game by tracking down a drop shot. But Djokovic was not to be denied and cracked down an ace with his fastest serve of the match before clinching the title when a Nadal forehand went wide.
While Nadal will go away and prepare for the Australian Open in two months’ time, when he will again have no raking points to defend, Djokovic will have little time to savor his victory before leading Serbia into the Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic, beginning on Friday.