Novak Djokovic reigned supreme at the ATP World Tour Finals yet again as the defending champion crushed world No.1 Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-4 in Monday’s final.
World No.2 Djokovic has now won the prestigious season-ending event three times and is the eighth player to successfully defend the Tour Finals title.
The 26-year-old has also equalled Nadal for the longest winning streak of 2013 after claiming his 22nd successive victory since losing to the Spaniard in the US Open final.
Djokovic’s seventh title of 2013 went some way to avenging that painful loss in New York and eased the frustration of surrendering his place at the top of the world rankings to Nadal.
He has now beaten Nadal 10 times in 19 finals, while extending his winning run at London’s O2 Arena to 10 matches since losing to Janko Tipsarevic two years ago.
“This is a great place to finish the year,” said Djokovic.
For Nadal, this was his second defeat in the final of the Tour Finals after a 2010 loss to Roger Federer and the wait goes on for his first title at the tournament.
The defeat also means Andre Agassi remains the only man to have won all four grand slams, an Olympic gold medal, the Davis Cup and the Tour Finals.
While it was a frustrating end to Nadal’s campaign, nothing could detract from his superb return from a career-threatening knee injury to win 10 titles, including the French and US Opens, over the past 10 months.
“This has for sure been the most emotional season of my career,” said Nadal.
“A year ago I was injured and could not be here.
“But to play the last match of the season in this stadium is fantastic. Novak played much better than me today and I had no chance.”
It was fitting that the final of the season’s last singles competition should feature the top two in the world rankings, but it was Djokovic who stole the show.
Djokovic knew he had to counter Nadal’s destructive groundstrokes if he was to subdue the Spaniard’s aggressive game-plan and he was quick to seize the momentum, winning seven of the first eight points and breaking in his opening service game to move 2-0 ahead.
With Djokovic defending superbly and then coming up with some searing winners from the baseline, it took four games before Nadal finally got on the scoreboard.
At the first sign of Djokovic’s intensity levels dropping just a touch, Nadal pounced and on his third break point of the fifth game as he pressured the Serb into dropping his serve.
But Djokovic regained the initiative in stunning fashion, ending a breathtaking rally, which included a brilliant lob and some remarkable agility from the Serb, to break and take a 5-3 lead.
The conclusion of that point brought a jubilant roar from Djokovic and moments later he was clenching his fist in celebration again after serving out the set with an ace.
Djokovic, firmly in the ascendency now, showed why he is the only player in the world who can overpower Nadal on a regular basis as he broke in the third game of the second set.
Faced with Djokovic’s incredible ability to get back into points that should be beyond him, Nadal was looking increasingly frazzled.
The Spaniard had hit just four winners in the whole match by midway through the second set.
Djokovic could see the finish line in sight and after two match points slipped away, he finally delivered the knockout blow at the third attempt.