By Mario Sarmento
Novak Djokovic apparently likes playing in Key Biscayne.
Djokovic, the No. 2 player in the world, won his fourth Sony Open Tennis tournament title Sunday with a 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 1 Rafael Nadal on Stadium Court at the Tennis Center in Crandon Park in the men’s final.
“This tournament has been perfect for me,” Djokovic said. “The matches that I played, I really did well. And I improved my game as the tournament progressed. The best performance of the tournament came at the right moment.”
Djokovic dominated from the start, breaking Nadal three times and never dropping serve, winning 83 percent of his service points for the match. Nadal had only lost on serve once heading into the final. Only Andre Agassi (6) has won more men’s singles titles than Djokovic in Key Biscayne.
“Novak was better than me,” Nadal said. “It’s very easy to analyze.”
The Serb dictated play with his deep and accurate shots, and Nadal was unable to keep pace.
Fittingly, Djokovic got his last break on the last point of the match, as he ran down a Nadal drop shot and half-volleyed it home for the winning point.
Djokovic dropped his racket and fell on his back, arms extended, to celebrate his fourth win in five trips to the final, and his first since 2012. After winning the first set in 40 minutes, Djokovic set the tone for the second with an opening break of Nadal, ending a long rally on double break point with a crosscourt forehand winner to steal the game. It was one of 21 winners the Serb hit on the day.
In the first set, the two men traded wins on serve until the sixth game, when Djokovic began to take control. A volley and backhand crosscourt winner put him ahead 0-30, and after a Nadal ace, Djokovic hit a crosscourt forehand winner, and followed that with a deep forehand that Nadal returned long for the critical break.
Djokovic capped the set up 40-0 with a well-placed serve that Nadal backhanded into the net.
“Rafa is the kind of player that if you allow him or give him a chance, he’s going to capitalize on it, he’s going to take that chance he’s going to come back in that match, and you’re going to lose,” Djokovic said. “And I didn’t want to lose that advantage and I kept pressing him until the end.”
In winning his second straight 1000-level title, Djokovic also joined Roger Federer as the only players to win Indian Wells and the Sony Open back-to-back twice.
This marked the Serb’s third straight win over Nadal – a four time finalist at Key Biscayne – in their 40th meeting, which is the most ever between two players in the Open era.
“It’s definitely the biggest rivalry I’ve had in my tennis career,” Djokovic said. “It’s a big challenge always when I play Rafa on any surface, but especially on clay. We’ve played some great matches the last three or four years, and they’ve been decided by a few points. There are very few matches that were one-sided. I knew what to expect from Rafa today. When he fights for a trophy, he comes out very aggressive from the first point and wants to make sure he sends a message to his opponent.”