03:48 PM GMT November 11, 2013
Novak Djokovic lifted the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals trophy for a third time on Monday night.
Second seed Djokovic added to his 2008 and 2012 title runs with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over top seed Rafael Nadal, who finished runner-up for the second time, in the fifth No. 1 versus No. 2 final in the 44-year history of the prestigious season-ending championship.
Djokovic extended his winning streak to 22 matches with victory in one hour and 37 minutes at The O2 in London. He improved to a 41-21 record in title matches and to 7-2 this year.
The 26-year-old Serbian received The Brad Drewett Trophy from Ashok Vaswani, Chief Executive of Barclays Retail and Business Banking.
He earned $1,923,000 in prize money and 1,500 Emirates ATP Rankings points, while 27-year-old Nadal took home $1,013,000 and 1,000 points as he dropped to a 10-4 record in finals this year.
Djokovic became the seventh player to win the year-end championship at least three times, joining Roger Federer (six titles), Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras (five each), Ilie Nastase (four), and Boris Becker and John McEnroe (three each).
"We push each other to the limit [and] we make each other better," said Djokovic. "We make each other work harder on our games, especially when we play against each other. It's always a huge challenge.
"This can serve as a great platform for 2014 season. I'm extra motivated and inspired to work and get myself, first of all, rested and recovered in the off season, and then work on my game and get ready for Australian Open."
Djokovic pierced Nadal’s defences early on in his third season-ending final. The depth of his groundstrokes ensured Nadal played well behind the baseline on the medium-paced indoor court. Two backhand errors cost Nadal as he was broken to 15 in the second game.
At 0-3, Nadal was battling to keep the set competitive. But when he struck a vicious forehand that kicked up to Djokovic’s backhand at 15/15 in the fourth game, the momentum of the match shifted. Djokovic’s first serve went off the boil and Nadal was able to play closer to the baseline, effectively giving Djokovic less time and space, to gain his first service break.
But a double fault at 3-4, 30/30, put him back in trouble with Djokovic smothering the net to break serve. He served out the set to 30, finishing with an ace out wide. Nadal had won just 45 per cent of his second service points in the 44-minute opener.
Djokovic tightened his grip on the pair’s 39th FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting when he broke Nadal to 30 – on his third break point opportunity – in the third game of the second set. A big forehand into the corner saw Nadal flailing and his response went long.
Djokovic may well have taken a 5-2 lead, but Nadal fought hard to recover from 15/40. Djokovic created his first match point opportunity in the ninth game, when Nadal lunged too far for a backhand down the line. The Spaniard saved it at 30/40.
But Djokovic was not to be denied his seventh trophy of the year. Despite falling from 30/0 to 30/30, the World No. 2 held his nerve and clinched his third match point chance when Nadal hit a forehand wide.
"One thing that made the difference in today's match was the serve," said Nadal. "I didn't serve well, he served well. On this kind of court, the first shot is very important and he hit that first shot much better than me.
"I think at the beginning he was playing much better than me. The first three games, no doubt. Even the fourth…After that I didn't see that difference. I felt I was playing aggressively, going for the shots. I had the control of the points a lot of times with my forehand after the [first] three games."
Nadal had been attempting to become the third Spaniard to capture the title, after Manuel Orantes in 1975 and Alex Corretja in 1998. The last left-hander to win the year-end title was McEnroe in 1984.
Both players had remained undefeated en route to the championship match.
Nadal completes his season, which began in early February, with a 75-7 match record, which includes two major championships and five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns. He clinched year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the third time (also 2008 and 2010) on Wednesday with his second round robin win of the week.
"He has improved his game immensely on the hard courts this year," said Djokovic. "He has been positioning himself really well, staying closer to the line and using his forehand around the court really well, as well as serving more efficiently, which was of course giving me and other players trouble."
Djokovic will next compete for Serbia against Czech Republic in the Davis Cup final, which begins on 15 November.
"I think I've worked on a few things in my game and serve that has helped me win a lot of matches in last two months," said Djokovic. "This is definitely the best possible way that I can finish the season, of course, the official ATP season, not including the Davis Cup final that I have in a few days' time, where, of course, I hope that we can bring another title to our country."
AT A GLANCE
(2) Novak Djokovic d. (1) Rafael Nadal 63 64
Defending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals champion Novak Djokovic retained his title with a 63 64 victory over World No. 1 Rafael Nadal. Djokovic converted three of 11 break points and saved two of three break points in the 1:36 match. In the second set Djokovic never faced break point, winning 21 of 28 points on his serve.
The 26-year-old Serb extended his match winning streak to 22 by capturing his third season finale crown (2008, ’12-13) and seventh title of the year. The 22-match winning streak ties for the second-longest of Djokovic’s career. He closed last season with five wins at The O2 and he won the first 17 matches this season before his streak ended in the semi-finals at ATP Masters 1000 Indian Wells (l. to del Potro). He compiled a career-best 43-match winning streak in 2010-11.
Djokovic is the seventh player in the history of the tournament to win at least three titles. He is the first player since Federer in 2007 to win the semi-finals and final in straight sets. Djokovic beat Stanislas Wawrinka 63 63 in the semi-finals.
Djokovic’s seven titles this season is the second-most of his career (10 in 2011) and he has a 72-9 match record (15-0 indoors) going into this weekend’s Davis Cup final in Belgrade vs. Czech Republic. Djokovic also improved to 23-6 vs. Top 10 opponents this season (12 wins have come during the streak).
This was the fifth No. 1 vs No. 2-ranked final in the season finale since the Emirates ATP Rankings began in 1973. It was the second year in a row and third time in the past four years the top two players met in the final (No. 2 has won three times):
- 2013: No. 2 Djokovic d. No. 1 Nadal
- 2012: No. 1 Djokovic d. No. 2 Federer
- 2010: No. 2 Federer d. No. 1 Nadal
- 1986: No. 1 Lendl d. No. 2 Becker
- 1983: No. 2 McEnroe d. No. 1 Lendl
Djokovic and Nadal both came in with 4-0 records at this year’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and this was their Open Era record 39th meeting (Nadal leads 22-17). It was their sixth meeting of the season (tied 3-3) and 19th in a final (Djokovic leads 10-9).
The World No. 2 won his 19th career match (19-9) in the season finale and he moved into a tie for 7th place with John McEnroe, who also won three year-end titles (1978, ’83-84).
Nadal finished No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings with a 75-7 match record, winning 10 titles in 14 finals. He was trying to win his first season finale title after a runner-up in 2010.