Exhausted Djokovic savours the moment
A mere 18 hours after being taken to a three-set semi-final thriller by Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic conquered his fatigue to record his fourth consecutive final win over Rafael Nadal. It was an achievement that will go down in the annals, with the latter two of the four wins (here and Madrid) coming on the Majorcan’s preferred clay, and the Serb certainly measured the enormity of his accomplishment.
“Everything is possible, that is explanation. You can do it if you fit well with the team of people around you and to focus on your goal – and your goal is to be physically ready for the match. We did a great job and today I was able to get the maximum out of my fitness. It is an incredible honour to be part of history and part of the elite of players like Federer, Nadal, McEnroe and Lendl – those players who have won many matches in a row. I think some other people will judge this but what I am really happy about is that there is some other players that Rafa and Roger who win the big events.”
He nevertheless took the time to pay tribute to his adversary – the man whose mantle he is beginning to take over. “Let us be clear: he is the king of clay and he is the best player ever to play on this surface. Yes, I have won against him twice in the last eight days which I think is an incredible achievement for me and this has given me a lot of confidence for the French Open, but this is only a couple of tournaments this year and he has been dominant on this surface for so many, many years.”
For Nadal, it was a bitter pill to swallow. Four times now he has been defeated in an ATP Masters 1000 final, and his no.1 ranking is in serious danger. And for the first time in his career, he is going to Roland Garros, the Grand Slam that he has made his own, fully fit yet with doubts in his mind. Despite that, he paid fulsome praise to his opponent whilst maintaining a degree of confidence in his own abilities.
“He is a very good player and put in a very strong performance physically and mentally. This level of performance is very high and I expect nothing else. I certainly felt much better today than I did in Madrid. Today I was able to go inside the court and move well and to play more aggressively. I am not disappointed about my match and I am not sad tonight. We will try next time.”
“He is doing amazing things,” said Nadal of his main rival in the rankings who is closing in inexorably on the world no.1 slot. “He is playing fantastic, doing a lot of things very well and has a lot of confidence. The most important thing for me is to be confident and be happy with what I am doing. I have done everything that I can, I cannot ask more of myself but one player is doing better than me. The champion in my opinion is not only able to win every week, it is when they are able to wait for the right moments and I am waiting every week trying to find solutions and we will see what happens next time.”
Next time will be Roland Garros, just a week away, and the world is waiting with baited breath for another episode of the Rafa and Nole show. And Djokovic believes that the best is yet to come. "Maybe this is a bit arrogant to say that I can play better than this, because I have played that well against Rafa in Madrid and here. I have been hitting the ball really well and I am serving better this year, and it is important to get a couple of easy balls or free points from the serve. But there is always a need to improve...” Ominous words indeed for the rest of the ATP circuit.