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Djokovic Gives Chase To Nadal

Miami, U.S.A.

Nadal Djokovic Miami© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have played 40 Tour-level matches against each other.

Novak Djokovic’s season is back on track. The World No. 2 marched through the 2014 Sony Open Tennis final on Sunday with a 6-3, 6-3 defeat of World No. 1 and top seed Rafael Nadal.

The victory gives Djokovic the lead in the Emirates ATP Race To London, overtaking Stanislas Wawrinka, Roger Federer, and Nadal in the standings. This reflects the Belgrade native’s 16-2 record on the season that includes a title win in Indian Wells (d. Federer).

As tennis looks ahead to the clay court season, many wonder whether Sunday’s performance will put the 26 year old in a similar trajectory as that of his stellar 2011 season, which opened with a 41-match winning streak, earned him 10 titles (including the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open) and saw him wrestle the World No. 1 ranking from Nadal.

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“I hope so,” said Djokovic. “I can't predict what the future brings. I can only focus my attention and energy to the present moment and do what I do best, and that is to try to prepare myself and recover. I have a couple weeks until my first clay court match in Monte-Carlo.

“I couldn't have asked for a better March this season. Hopefully I can carry that confidence on clay."

The Miami final was the 40th meeting between the pair and the third consecutive straight-sets win for Djokovic. While Nadal leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 22-18, Djokovic has a 14-7 upper hand on hard courts and 11-9 advantage in finals.

“[Miami] has been perfect from the beginning to the end,” he added. “The matches that I have played, I played really well. I elevated my game as the tournament progressed. The best performance of the tournament came in the right moment on Sunday against [my] biggest rival."

The two men reached a new milestone after their meeting, marking the first time in ATP World Tour Masters 1000 history that all nine tournament titles have been held by two players: Djokovic (five) and Nadal (four).

Djokovic, also the reigning champion of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, appreciates the value Nadal’s presence adds to his own game.

“[It’s the] biggest rivalry I have in my tennis career,” said Djokovic. “It's a great challenge always when I play Rafa on any surface, especially on clay.

“When [Nadal] fights for trophy, he comes out with a great intensity from the first point, and he wants to make sure he sends the message across the net to his opponent.

“Because of Rafa and because of Roger, I am what I am today,” Djokovic said. “They made me understand what I need to do on the court.

“I worked hard, and it's paying dividends in the last couple of years. Obviously it's not easy when you're playing a top rival in the final of any tournament, but if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. You have to win against the best players in the world.”

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