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Djokovic Upends Nadal Again

Miami, USA

Novak Djokovic© Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic completes the prized Indian Wells-Miami double.

Players on the ATP World Tour will have to wait until the clay court season to have another opportunity to end Novak Djokovic’s undefeated reign in 2011.

In one of the most electrifying men’s singles finals in Sony Ericsson Open history, the Serbian defeated World No. 1 Rafael Nadal for the second consecutive ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event after winning at Indian Wells two weeks ago, upending the Spaniard 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) to win his second Sony Ericsson Open Sunday afternoon. “As I said on the court, it was one of the closest and best finals that I have played ever,” a pleased Djokovic told reporters after his win.

“I think it was very high level of tennis today. I think everybody enjoyed, even us playing. It was very close, and up to the last stroke we really didn't know which way it's going to go.”

The match took its toll on both players – even the World No. 1 came off the court fatigued, a rare occasion for one of the fittest players in the history of the game. “I was very tired at the end. Think I played a little bit better the beginning of last week's final,” evaluated the Spaniard.

“[But] I was there fighting until the last point… nothing left in my body right now, so that's the sport. I love these kinds of matches.”

Watch Highlights | Djokovic Interview

In front of a record final's crowd of 14,625 fans, Djokovic improved to 24-0 on the season, and increases his overall winning streak to 26 wins in a row, dating back to last December’s Davis Cup Final. His title today gives the two-time Australian Open champion his seventh ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title, five of which have come on outdoor hard courts, and 22nd title overall.

Djokovic has turned up the heat on Nadal in the battle for the World No. 1 South African Airways ATP Ranking. The nine-time major champion has more than 7,000 points to defend between now and Wimbledon. “I think it's a bit early to talk about getting that top spot in the rankings. It's still quite a big difference. Rafa is definitely the best player in the world now,” believes the current No. 2 Djokovic.
 
“If I want to have that shot, the No. 1 ranking, I need to play consistently well throughout the whole year. We all know that clay court is his favorite surface, and obviously somewhere where he plays his best.”

Nadal sees the situation differently. “I think he's going to be No. 1,” said the Majorcan. 

“I don't feel [like] he's breathing on my neck… but he won two tournaments in a row right now, very big tournaments, [as well as] one Grand Slam. Normal thing is he will be No. 1 in the next month, month and a half, two months. I don't know. Depends on my results on clay.”

Though the Spaniard was disappointed not to win at Crandon Park in his third final, he was positive about the results he’s achieved in the year’s first two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events. “I had a fantastic American hard court season, [reaching] two finals, and [now I’m] ready for clay,” Nadal said. “I had a very good season, American season, probably the best one of my life here.”

His next tournament will be the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Monte Carlo, a place where he’s won a record six consecutive tournaments, the perfect location to begin his clay court season. “First tournament of clay is always important… I won six in a row.  I going to try my best for the seventh but know how difficult every tournament is,” said Nadal. “Hopefully I’m going to be playing well at this tournament.” 

Djokovic has never defeated Nadal on clay, but has tested the five-time French Open champion on the surface, and comes in as a different player than in years past. “I think I have the game to challenge him on that surface, and I showed that in 2009. I think we had some great matches in Monte Carlo, final; in Madrid, semifinal, so it is possible,” Djokovic said.

“If I do have an opportunity to play him on clay, obviously I have to be aggressive. Clay is the slowest surface that we have, and it's the surface that suits him best. Over the years, he's been the king of that surface and the guy to beat. He always comes up with his best game at the clay court tournaments.”

The Serbian becomes the first player since Roger Federer in 2006 to win both Indian Wells and Miami in the same year, a feat that’s now been achieved eight times on the men’s side. This match-up paralleled 1995 in many ways; it was the first time in 16 years that Indian Wells and Miami featured the same two finalists, as well as the top two ranked players (Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras). It was also the first time since the Agassi-Sampras clash in 1995 that the men’s final at Crandon Park was decided by a final set tie-break.
 
This year's Sony Ericsson Open attracted 316,267 fans, setting a new tournament record.

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