Djokovic Ruthless In Claiming 60th Title
Novak Djokovic made sure the lone blip on his jaw-dropping 2015 resume was a distant memory, routing rival Rafael Nadal 6-1, 6-2 for the season-opening Qatar ExxonMobil Open title.
The World No. 1 erased memories of a quarter-final exit in Doha last year (l. to Karlovic), capturing his sixth consecutive ATP World Tour title and 60th overall at the tour-level. He became just the 10th player in the Open Era to reach the 60-title milestone, drawing level with Andre Agassi in a tie for ninth.
60 Titles Club (Open Era)
"I haven't dropped a set the entire week," said Djokovic. "When it was most needed against one of my biggest rivals, I managed to play the best tennis in a match where I fought for the trophy. So it does definitely give me a great deal of confidence for the rest of the season.
"I'm playing the tennis of my life, and I will try to nurture and cherish those moments on the court. As I said in the ceremony, I will use this confidence level in every tournament that I play. I know that it can't go forever, but I'm not thinking too much ahead of myself."
No ATP World Tour match-up has featured more meetings than Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, and the Serb and the Spaniard wasted no time in renewing their rivalry in 2016. With the Doha trophy on the line on Saturday, Djokovic was in cruise control from the start.
Djokovic erased a break point in the opening game of the match, stepping into the court to rifle a penetrating cross-court backhand and crashing the net to put away a volley. The Serb did not waste any time in putting the Spaniard on the back foot, racing to a 0/40 lead in the next game after striking a sublime drop shot to draw Nadal out of position. He would secure the first break of the match two points later and cruised to a second break for 5-1. Djokovic closed out the opening set to love after 31 minutes, firing 16 winners and four aces.
Djokovic continued to apply pressure on Nadal, suffocating the Spaniard from the baseline with a ruthless display of aggression. He converted his third break point in the opening game of the second set and secured another break to all but seal the match at 4-1. He would wrap up the match after 73 minutes, striking a total 30 winners to just 13 unforced errors.
The Serb leads the historic FedEx ATP Head2Head for the first time at 24-23. He has now claimed 11 consecutive sets since Nadal prevailed in the 2014 Roland Garros final.
In addition, Djokovic hoisted his first ATP World Tour 250 crown since triumphing on home soil in Belgrade 2011. It marks the 11th consecutive year he has claimed an ATP World Tour title.
Nadal, who was competing in his 99th final, was bidding for his 68th tour-level title. The 2014 Doha champion (d. Monfils) also finished runner-up in 2010 (l. to Davydenko). Spaniards had won the past two titles in the Qatari capital, with David Ferrer emerging victorious in 2015.
"We will see during the whole season," said Nadal. "Today, he's better than me. We will see in two weeks or we will see in five months. The only thing that you can do is wait that the opponent is not playing like this all the time. That is difficult to play like this all the time. It's obvious. I am going to wait for my moment."