Novak Djokovic tamed world No. 1 Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-3 to claim his fourth Sony Open title on Sunday, denying the Spaniard a maiden win on the Miami hard courts.
The win was the second straight Masters series title for the Serbian world No. 2, who defeated Roger Federer in the BNP Paribas Open two weeks previously in Indian Wells, California.
“That was a great confidence boost for me that I carried on in this week and this tournament has been perfect from the beginning to the end,” said Djokovic, after hoisting his 43rd career ATP Tour title. “The matches that I have played, I played really well and I elevated my game as the tournament progressed. The best performance of the tournament came in the right moment on Sunday against the biggest rival.”
The world’s top ranked players added another line to what has grown into one of tennis’ great rivalries, with the Spaniard holding a 22-18 edge, but the Miami title continues to be one of the few to elude Nadal, who has now finished runner-up four times at Crandon Park, twice beaten in the final by Djokovic.
“Miami is the same level as Indian Wells, same level as Cincinnati, Toronto, Monte Carlo, Rome, Madrid,” said Nadal, when asked to explain his inability to hoist the Miami trophy. “The quality of the tournament is Masters 1000 that I won 26, so I cannot have a mental block on that. No, no frustration. That’s tennis. That’s the sport.”
Both Nadal and Djokovic were well-rested after receiving walkovers into the final after opponents withdrew from the semi-finals, giving the tournament a mouth-watering championship matchup.
The contest featured everything one would expect except from a matchup between the world’s best with a title on the line, Nadal and Djokovic trading thundering ground-strokes right from the first point, but a confident Djokovic, his game firing on all cylinders, kept Nadal on the defensive, ending the drama quickly by winning all the big points.
“I played a few games and a few points with right way, with right intensity, but for the rest, easy to analyze. The opponent was better than me. That’s it,” Nadal said.
Both players had one break opportunity in an entertaining opening set and it was the Serb who made his count, breaking Nadal to go up 4-2 and then holding serve for a 1-0 lead.
Djokovic quickly put his opponent under pressure, starting the second with a break, and that was all he would need with Nadal unable to find a crack in the Serb’s armor.
The match ended on another break and a dazzling rally, Djokovic sealing a clinical victory with a textbook half-volley, then falling onto his back and punching his hands in the air in celebration.
“I didn’t have any letdowns throughout the match,” Djokovic said. “I was in a very high level: serve, backhand, cross-court, forehand. I mean, I have done everything right and I’m thrilled with my performance.”
In the women’s doubles, Martina Hingis made a winning return when the Swiss player and her German partner Sabine Lisicki claimed the title on Sunday with a 4-6, 6-4, 10-5 win over Russian duo Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.
The title was the 33-year-old Hingis’ first since winning the doubles in Doha in 2007.
“Obviously it is very exciting, when you convert that match point, you are like, yes, we did it,” Hingis said.
Since retiring in 2007, Hingis, a former world No. 1, has flirted with a doubles comeback.
Last year, the winner of five singles and nine doubles Grand Slam career titles attempted a return with Daniela Hantuchova, but found little success, winning just three of five matches and falling in the first round of the US Open.
Hingis launched a second comeback this season, losing in the first round at Indian Wells, but looked right at home on the Miami hard courts, returning to the winner’s circle at an event she won twice back in 1998 and 1999.
“Two weeks ago, if you asked me, I probably would have had a completely different answer,” Hingis said when asked about her future plans. “Last week, I was like, I’m not sure if I want to put myself out there like this and lose first, second round. Now after this victory, things have definitely changed. I would be very happy to continue to play some more doubles, of course.”