You thought Rafael Nadal was back in the conversation with Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray in 2016?
Think again. Or maybe just not in the same stratosphere as the Serb.
The world No. 1 Djokovic rocked Nadal 6-1, 6-2 for the season-opening Qatar ExxonMobil Open title in Doha on Saturday, winning his sixth consecutive ATP title.
Nadal after the final said essentially ‘No worries, the year is young.’
“Today, he’s better than me,” said the Spaniard. “We will see in two weeks or we will see in five months. The only thing that you can do is wait that the opponent is not playing like this all the time. That is difficult to play like this all the time. It’s obvious. I am going to wait for my moment.”
With the win Djokovic tied Andre Agassi with 60 career titles, joining the elite 10 players to win 60 or more.
Nadal looked to be challenging from the start, earning a break point in the first game, but Djokovic erased the challenge then went about erasing the Spaniards chances, in the next game going up 40-love on Nadal’s serve before eventually breaking. Later a second break put Djokovic up 5-1, and the gap between the players became clearer.
In the second set Djokovic broke Nadal’s serve right out of the gates for a 1-0 lead before winning five of the next seven games to secure victory.
“It did feel as close to perfection as it can get,” Djokovic said. “Obviously from the first to the last point I managed to impose my own tactical approach and strategy and what I have kind of prepared myself for, and the conditions were played to my favor. I just came out on the court with the right intention, with the right intensity, and with a great deal of confidence, as well, that I carried from the last season playing against him in the last couple of matches as well winning in straight sets.”
The Serb furthered his status by taking the lead for the first time ever in their head-to-head, going up on Nadal 24-23, and winning his 11th consecutive set off the Spaniard. Djokovic had now won nine of their last 10 meetings. Piling on the stats, it was also the 16th consecutive final Djokovic has appeared in.
“I played against a player who did everything perfect,” Nadal said. “I don’t know anybody who played tennis like this ever. Since I know this sport I never saw somebody playing at this level. So I just congratulate him and that’s it. I know I can do a few things better, but the real thing is, with these conditions playing during the night and with the feeling of the ball here, it’s so difficult to have chances against him playing like this.”
Nadal fell to 67-32 in career finals.
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