World No. 2 Novak Djokovic notched his 34th consecutive victory as he brought to an end Rafael Nadal’s 37-match unbeaten run on clay, defeating the defending champion 7-5, 6-4 in the final of the Mutua Madrid Open.
“Under the circumstances, I’ve played probably the best match of my life on clay against the World No. 1 and the player to beat on this surface,” declared Djokovic, according to atpworldtour.com. “The way I played was justfantastic. I’m definitely satisfied with the performance and the overall tournament.”
The 23-year-old Djokovic has not been beaten since the semi-finals (l. to Federer) of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in November and has opened the 2011 season with a 32-0 mark, taking in titles at the Australian Open, Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami, Belgrade and now in Madrid.
The Belgrade native’s 32-0 start to the season is second only to John McEnroe, who began 1984 with a 42-0 mark.
“I know that this run that I have is really incredible but I try to think about how long it’ll go and when I will be beaten,” said Djokovic. “It’s how many more wins I’m going to have. Every time I go on the court I’m motivated to win and not thinking that this is the day I’ll lose.”
After clinching his eighth ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown, and third of the season, Djokovic received 1000 South African Airways 2011 ATP Ranking points and € 590,000 in prize money. The Serbian is currently leading the way to qualify for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and finish the year in the coveted No. 1 spot.
Despite never having beaten Nadal on clay in nine previous attempts, Djokovic went into the final with the confidence of having defeated the Spaniard in their past two meetings in the finals of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami.
“He’s playing at a really high level. We’ve got to accept that,” said Nadal. “When someone is better than you there is nothing you can do other than congratulate him and that’s it and look forward to your next tournament and try to keep up, see what you’re missing, what you’re doing right and face forward with the correct attitude and with mental strength. You have to be cold, mentally speaking, and you have to look for solutions. Try to be better, try to practice and next time I’ll try to do better.”
The 24-year-old Nadal was chasing his third title in Madrid, after victories in 2005 (d. Ljubicic) and 2010 (d. Federer), and his third trophy of the season. The Mallorcan had not lost a clay-court match since the 2009 Roland Garros fourth round (l. to Soderling) and opened his 2011 campaign with back-to-back victories at Monte-Carlo and Barcelona (d. Ferrer both times).
Last year Nadal completed a historic sweep of the three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournaments, before triumphing at Roland Garros. He will look to rebound from this defeat by retaining his title at next week’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Ro