Torrid Novak Djokovic defeated world No. 1 Rafael Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) in a riveting, 3-hour, 21-minute, mano-a-mano slugfest to win the Sony Ericsson Open in sultry Miami yesterday. No. 2-ranked Djokovic improved to 24-0 on the year, and increased his overall winning streak to 26 matches, counting two Davis Cup wins in December. The victory was the Serb’s second in two weeks over Rafa in a Masters Series final. Djokovic topped the Spaniard at Indian Wells a fortnight ago to win the BNP Paribas Open. Nole becomes the first player since Roger Federer in 2006 to win both Indian Wells and Miami in the same year, a feat that’s now been accomplished eight times on the men’s tour. Djokovic improved to 9-16 lifetime against Nadal, while winning his fourth title of the year. The 23-year-old Serb also won at Melbourne in January and Dubai in February. “Such a close match,” Djokovic said. “To win against the No. 1 player of the world in a tiebreak in the third set, it’s just incredible.” Nadal hasn’t won a tournament since Tokyo in October, but Djokovic isn’t laying claim to the top spot just yet. “It’s the best four months of my life, but it’s only the start of the season,” Djokovic said. “It’s a bit early to talk about getting that top spot in the rankings. Rafa is definitely the best player in the world now. If I want to have the No. 1 ranking, I need to play consistently well throughout the whole year.” Djokovic started slowly, getting broken for the first time in the tournament in the third game and then again in the fifth. The Serb broke at 5-2 and held to make the first set respectable and gain some momentum. Djokovic got the only break of the second set at 0-1, and evened things up at a set apiece with an ace on set point. The final stanza proceeded on serve to force a tiebreaker. There were five straight mini-breaks to begin the breaker. Djokovic won the next two points on his serve for a 5-2 lead. Another mini-break gave the Serb four match points. After Nadal saved two of them, Djokovic sealed the deal on the third with a cross-court forehand winner. “What he’s doing is unbelievable,” Nadal said. “First thing, he’s very good; second thing, he’s playing with confidence. When you’re winning, it’s easier to keep winning.” Djokovic finished with 40 unforced errors, committing 19 in the first set, while Nadal had 36. The Serb lead in winners, 40-25. Attention now turns from American hardcourts to European red clay.