Novak Djokovic started 2016 right where he left off last year, producing a sensational display to sweep aside Rafael Nadal 6-1 6-2 in the final of the Qatar Open. The Serbian dominated 2015, winning three of the four Grand Slams, and winning all four matches against the man who has been his greatest rival. In their record 47th meeting, Djokovic moved ahead in their head-to-head battle and secured a perfect start to the season thanks to an imperious performance that left Nadal bewildered and beaten in just over 73 minutes.
Nadal endured a 2015 to forget, but had shown signs of getting back to his best both at the end of last year and the start of this. In fact, he made an encouraging start to the final in Doha, too, earning a break point in the very first game of the match. But Djokovic held firm and then immediately broke to assume a control he never looked likely to relinquish.
There were still positive moments from Nadal through most of the opening set, yet Djokovic was playing at an incredible level. The speed of his ground strokes was upped considerably from the rest of his matches in the tournament, as like so often the world No. 1 came up with his best on a big occasion. Indeed, it is hard to think of Djokovic, defending imperiously and attacking Nadal with blistering precision, ever playing better.
After Djokovic broke for a second time and took the opening set, Nadal quickly fell away. Lacking the consistent depth to get his opponent on the back foot, Nadal, a 14-time Grand Slam winner, simply had no answer. There was no coming back after he dropped his serve in the opening game of the second set. At one point a fan in the crowd, adorned in a Nadal t-shirt, volunteered some coaching advice, only frustrating the second seed further.
The second set was as routine as it was spectacular, with one fist pump from Djokovic illustrating just how thrilled he was with the incredible level of tennis he was producing so early in the year. With the Australian Open just over a week away, it is tough to see anyone even coming close to the 10-time Grand Slam champion on this form. For Nadal, it was a match that did offer reinforcement of how far he has come in the last few months, yet also just how far he has to go if he is to match the man at the top.