Djokovic Defeats Nadal Again to Keep Streak Alive

by John on May 15, 2011

Ding dong! The Clay Master is toast. Well, not really. But Novak Djokovic has certainly put a world of hurt upon Rafael Nadal’s hold on Numero Uno and virtual clay-court invincibility. The No. 2-ranked Djokovic defeated Nadal 6-4, 6-4 Sunday evening to win the Rome Masters and bag his second win over Rafa in two weeks on European red clay. The win was Djokovic’s 37th in a row this year (39th overall, counting two Davis Cups wins in December) and moves him within striking distance of John McEnroe’s record 42 consecutive wins to start a season, set in 1984. Djokovic has now defeated Nadal in four Masters Series finals this year, also winning at Indian Wells and Miami, and last week at Madrid, snapping Nadal’s 37-match unbeaten streak on clay. The title was Djokovic’s seventh of the year and improves his record to 11-16 against Nadal. “I was amazed by the way I played,” Djokovic said. “I’m just most happy about the game I have this year on clay — the way I’m striking the ball and the way I’m so self-confident. I always knew I could beat the top players, but now I have the confidence to do it.” Djokovic had Nadal on the defensive much of the match, striking a harder, flatter ball with less margin of error, while the Spaniard stuck with his signature, looping, heavy topspin ground strokes. Nole’s aggressive play effectively pinned Nadal behind the baseline, where he couldn’t wield as much damage. The Serb committed more unforced errors, 32 to 22, but also had more winners, 26 to 15. Djokovic got the first break of the opening set in the eighth game, but Nadal immediately broke back for 4-5. Nole took the ensuing game and the opening set with another break, rifling a backhand winner on set point. The two traded breaks in the second and third games of the second set and then both held until 4-5, when Djokovic got his fourth break of the day, crunching a Nadal net-cord sitter on his fourth match point. “He’s doing amazing things. Every match he’s very tough mentally and physically,” Nadal said. “I’m doing everything I can. I can’t ask myself anymore now. I’m doing very well but one player is doing better than me. I am waiting every week to try solutions, so let’s see.” Djokovic said Nadal was still the man to beat at the French Open, starting in a week. “Let’s get one thing straight — he’s still the king of clay,” Djokovic said. “He’s the best person ever on these courts. Winning twice in the last week is a great achievement and gives me confidence coming up to France, but he has been so dominant over the years.”

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