By Chris Oddo/ Sunday, October 6, 2013
Novak Djokovic won his fourth title in Beijing, taking out Rafael Nadal in the China Open final, 6-3, 6-4.
Photo Source: AP
He may not be No. 1 in the world anymore, but he can still play some pretty mean tennis. Novak Djokovic proved all that and more in his decisive straight-sets victory over Rafael Nadal on Sunday in the Beijing final, taking the 38th career meeting between these fierce tennis rivals with a sparkling performance in Beijing.
The victory marks Djokovic's fourth title in Beijing. He has never lost at the event, going 19-0 in four career appearances, dropping only three of 41 sets in the process. “I love coming back here,” Djokovic told the Beijing crowd, with a smile after the match.
Nadal is No. 1 Again
Djokovic, who will relinquish his No. 1 ranking to Nadal on Monday after a 48-week stint at top, seemed to bristle with an underdog's fervor in Sunday's final. Even with the battle for No. 1 lost already, Djokovic appeared eager to prove that the long-running war for supremacy between these two rivals is far from over.
“He deserves to definitely to be No. 1 this year with the season that he had,” said Djokovic. “He's the best player so far in 2013 no question about it. Me, I'm just very happy to be continuing to play well and hopefully I can maintain that rhythm.”
Djokovic took the play to Nadal all afternoon in front of an energetic crowd that appeared to be evenly split in its support, leaving the Spaniard, who had won 22 straight matches and 26 in a row on hard courts, on the short end of the majority of exchanges. The Serb broke Nadal in the first game of each set, and kept him at bay with the type of all-court tennis that took him to the pinnacle of the sport in 2011.
Though Nadal has held the upper hand in their rivalry in 2013 (he had won six of the last seven heading into this match), it was Djokovic who took control of Sunday's final with an imperious serving performance against one of the world's best returners. The Serb was stingy from start to finish on serve, dropping only six points all afternoon, and not facing a single break point against Nadal.
Nadal-Djokovic, Episode 38, By the Numbers
He was up to task on return as well, as Djokovic broke Nadal in the first game of each set, converting on two of four opportunities on the afternoon.
With Nadal investing all his time and energy in staying close, Djokovic never gave the 13-time Grand Slam champion the window for a comeback that he was looking for. Nadal, who had fought back from the brink against Italy's Fabio Fognini in the quarterfinals to keep his run of hard-court perfection alive in Beijing, was not granted the same generosity from Djokovic on this day.
He never came close.
“I played against too good of an opponent today,” Nadal said. “He played much better than me today so he deserved the victory.”
While serving for the first set, Djokovic executed two perfect serves followed by forehand winners to close the door on Nadal, and in the second set he picked up where he left off with another break of serve to keep the momentum on his side.
Nadal won one of the most entertaining points of the match at 30-all in that game, when he outmaneuvered Djokovic on a cat-and-mouse exchange that ended at the net with Nadal sending a smash past the Serb to him to earn a game point, but Djokovic would fight off that game point and two more from Nadal to earn the decisive break regardless.
With Nadal not at his sharpest, and Djokovic serving to near perfection, all the Spaniard could do was stay within a break the rest of the way. His window never came, and Djokovic tossed in a love hold, sealing the one hour and 27-minute victory with a thunderous serve out wide that glanced off Nadal's racquet and bounced into the crowd.
The victory is yet another strong statement for Djokovic in Beijing. The Serb has never lost in the Chinese capital, and improved his career record to 19-0 at the China Open with his 38th career title.
Though he has been inconsistent at times during 2013, he proved on this day that he is the only player in the world that can deliver a stern rebuttal to Nadal when he is in form.
Perhaps Djokovic is better suited to play the hunter to Nadal's hunted. Whatever the reason, the takeaway from today's final is clear: Nadal is clearly No. 1 in the world at the moment, but Djokovic still remains a very close second.
“After I lost a few painful matches and long matches against Rafa, last one in U.S. Open final, I really wanted to win, and I needed to win,” he said. “To win against him in straight sets, on a surface that he hasn't lost this season, it's a great feeling.”