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ATP World Tour Finals: Djokovic bests Nadal to defend Year End Championships

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Novak Djokovic brought the curtain down on a fantastic 2013 campaign with a thumping win over major rival Rafael Nadal at the O2 Arena here in London. The World No.2 was comprehensive in his defeat of World No.1 Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4 in just over an hour and a half to defend the crown he won last year. Matches between the duo have tended to be protracted affairs in the past, with fortunes swaying and both players pushed to the brink physically, but today Djokovic was a cut above Nadal and by their standards posted a relatively straightforward win.

The victory was Djokovic’s third at the World Tour Finals following victories in 2008 in Shanghai & last year here. It crowned a fine post US Open run where the Serb has remained undefeated through title runs in Beijing, Shanghai, Paris and finally in London. For Nadal, it was a disappointment as his quest for a World Tour Finals championship continues to elude him. The Spaniard had last made the final in 2010 where his dreams had then been squashed by a superior Federer.

Earlier, Fernando Verdasco & David Marrero in their first appearance at the World Tour Finals upset top seeds and former champions Bob & Mike Bryan 7/5, 6/7(3), 10-7. The all Spanish duo followed in the footsteps of last years’ surprise winners Granollers & Lopez who also claimed their maiden triumph in their tournament debut. The duo shared $335,500 in prize money and 1,300 points, while the Bryans split $195,500 and 800 points.

Novak Djokovic began the final in rampant form. Dropping a mere 4 points in the first 3 games, the Serb jumped out to 3-0 lead in a trice. The Serb was playing with a dangerous comfort and was handling Nadal’s shots with a degree of ease. He had a shot to make it 4-0 when Rafa double faulted twice in game 4 to give Djokovic a further break point. But Rafa as so often in the past managed to claw his way back. Little, relatively unnoticeable changes – the extra shot in play, the extra oomph in the forehand, the extra energy in the movement and an uplift in level manufactures itself. Suddenly the opponent feels a little less certain, misses a few more shots and plays a little more tentatively. That’s exactly what happened to Djokovic as Rafa levelled the set at 3-3, breaking serve with a delightful short slice that Djokovic pushed long. Suddenly it was Djokovic who needed to steady the ship and in the crucial 7th game held serve to 15 to stem the rot. Nadal though was not his usual assured self today. Once again he double faulted twice in the game to give Djokovic a break point but seemed to have saved it with a placed backhand volley. But this was where Djokovic’s ridiculous defensive abilities sprang forth. Scrambling and stretching he somehow poked a perfect defensive lob over Rafa at the net and ghosting in himself won the ensuing exchange at the net to make the break. The Serb let out a roar and clenched his fists and stepped up to serve out the set finishing it in style with an ace 6-3.

Nadal against most players is comfortable playing in his comfort zone breaking down the opponents’ backhand and then mixing it up with the down the line forehands. Against Djokovic and occasionally against Del Potro, that doesn’t work. The Serb’s backhand is compact and deals with the Rafa forehand better than anyone else and the Spaniard was forced to look to other avenues to gain the advantage from the baseline. He had some success, pounding the ball into Djokovic’s forehand where the Serb got a trifle late on occasion. But these were few and far between and by & large Novak had the measure of his opponent. A loose Nadal gave him the opportunity in the 3rd game of the second set, and the Serb converted with a fantastic forehand return on the stretch. He quickly consolidated the break with a love hold to leave Nadal staring down the barrel. The Spaniard fought well and even erased a brace of break points in the 7th game, but the Serb kept Nadal at arm’s length not allowing him a sniff at a break. Djokovic eventually stepped up to serve out the match and championships at 5-4 and duly hit a 131 mph ace at deuce followed by a forehand winner to complete victory on a night where he was undoubtedly the top dog.

 

Final Scores:

N.Djokovic d R.Nadal 6/3, 6/4

D.Marrero / F.Verdasco d B.Bryan / M.Bryan 7/5, 6/7(3), 10-7