Novak Djokovic’s perfect 2011 record was on the line in the final of the BNP Paribas Open today. Yesterday, in the semifinals, Djokovic defeated Roger Federer for the third time this year to supplant Federer as the world number two.
This afternoon, Djokovic faced world number one Rafael Nadal for the title. The 2008 Indian Wells champion, Djokovic extended his winning streak to 18 in a row by downing Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Subsequent to comfortable holds by both players, Djokovic stared at triple break point. Although Djokovic managed to salvage those, with a double fault, he handed Nadal a fifth break chance which the Spaniard converted for a 3-2 lead.
However, Djokovic promptly broke back. Quickly though, Nadal dismissed a couple of game points and with Djokovic gifting him a few backhand errors Nadal stole the game.
After consolidating at love for 5-3, Nadal served another love game to close out the set.
Despite an absent first serve, Nadal held the first two games of the second set at love. On the heels of squandering two game points, Nadal committed a backhand mistake to give Djokovic a second break point. By sending a forehand long, Nadal surrendered the game.
Yet, at break point with a charitable double fault, Djokovic awarded the next game to Nadal. Again though, Nadal’s inability to hit first serves came back to bite him as Djokovic capitalized after reaching triple break point for a 5-3 advantage.
Although he had to survive a break point and required six game points, in the end, Djokovic overcame Nadal’s charge and wrapped up the second set.
Two factors contributed to the shift in Djokovic’s fortunes in the second set. One, he was finally able to make Nadal pay for a dismal first serve percentage of 25. Secondly, Djokovic directed about 75% of his shots to the Nadal backhand with great success in provoking errors.
By sticking with this winning formula, Djokovic pushed Nadal into misfiring enough times to rip off an opening break. Subsequent to consolidating at love, on a forehand miscue from Nadal, Djokovic had another break point opportunity. When Nadal’s backhand traveled out of play, Djokovic had a 3-0 double break edge.
After Djokovic easily got to 4-0, Nadal fought hard and avoided posting a bagel. With his foot firmly on the pedal, Djokovic manhandled Nadal the rest of the way and comfortably took the set and the championship.
With victories also at the Australian Open and Dubai, Djokovic has been supreme on the hardcourt. In their head to head, Nadal had a 16-7 mark over Djokovic and had prevailed in their previous five finals.
If Djokovic maintains this level of play, soon, he will be challenging Nadal for the number one spot.
Unequivocally, as the ATP tour journeys to Miami, Djokovic will be the man to beat at the Sony Ericsson Open.