It has been a bittersweet week for former Serbian No. 1 Novak Djokovic (Player Profile), who secured his fourth ATP title in Beijing a mere hours ago with a win over adversary Rafael Nadal (Player Profile). While Djokovic is the first man to defeat Nadal on hard courts this season, he also lost his No. 1 ranking to the Spaniard in the process.
Nadal needed only to reach the Beijing finals this week to regain the top spot in the ATP rankings. With two Grand Slam title win this year and 5 Masters 1000 titles, he is far ahead in the ranking points this year and considering he had no points to defend for the rest of the season (having been sidelined the prior year due to a knee injury) it is likely that the Spaniard will continue to widen the gap between himself and his Serbian rival.
Novak won a fairly straightforward match in the final this morning as he blew past Nadal 6-3, 6-4 to win their 38th encounter on the tour and advanced his record in Beijing to a perfect 19-0.
“I needed this win today,” Djokovic said after the match. “I really wanted to get my hands on the trophy and win against Nadal, who has been the best player so far in 2013. It’s very important for my confidence. It’s very important mentally and emotionally for me.”
Djokovic broke a streak of three consecutive losses to Nadal, where after dethroning the champion in Monte Carlo, lost to Rafa in the Rolland Garros semifinals, the Montreal semifinal and the US Open final. He now improves his head-to-head record against the Spaniard to 16-22. The Serb appeared far more confident in their match-up today than any of their previous meetings this year.
“I managed to stay tough and not drop my concentration, which I think [happened] in both Montréal and at the US Open in the important moments. I learned my lesson. It was a few very tough and close matches that I lost against Rafa on hard courts, especially the last one in the US Open final.”
Rafa admitted following the match that Novak was the better player on court today. Not only did the 27-year-old not play his best match on court, but it was Djokovic’s power and rhythm that ensured victory for the Serb.
“I didn’t see the way to stop him this afternoon,” said Nadal. “This afternoon he was too strong for me. I didn’t play my best match this afternoon, but he played at a very high level with his serve. I was not able to have any chance when I was returning during the whole match. He had the ball staying very low. It was very difficult to create spin on this ball. He was able to hit all the balls where he wanted. When that’s happening against a player like Novak, you are dead. You don’t have not one chance.”
While Nadal has officially toppled Djokovic for the top spot, the Serb take solace in the fact that there are many more tournaments this season and a variety of opportunities to end the year as No. 1.
“I have some room to get points here and there, but generally I just want to keep on playing well. I’m just happy to be in the finals here,” he added. “Hopefully if I maintain this rhythm, the end results will follow the good performance “
The Djokovic-Nadal rivalry is one of historic implications, as no two top stars have ever competed against each other more than 38 times. The record was once held by Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe, who met on the ATP tour 36 times, with Lendl leading the series 21-15. With Roger Federer currently in a downslide in his career and with Andy Murray sidelined following a back surgery, it is likely that this rivalry will surpass 40 encounters within the next few months.
“I think it’s the most encounters that two players had in the history of this sport,” Djokovic said about their rivalry. “It’s almost 40. It’s an incredible number. I still feel that we’re going to have many more…Whenever we play each other, very few details and points decide the winners.