The Novak Djokovic express rolls on. The 23-year-old Serb kept up his remarkable winning run last night when he won the Miami Masters, beating Rafael Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 in an enthralling final lasting three hours and 21 minutes. Coming back from a set down to beat the world No 1 for the second Masters Series tournament in succession, Djokovic extended his unbeaten streak to 26 matches en route to his fourth straight title.
Since leading Serbia to the Davis Cup at the end of last year, Djokovic has won the Australian Open and tournaments in Dubai and Indian Wells – and now Miami. The world No 2, who is the first player since Roger Federer in 2006 to win Indian Wells and Miami in the same year, has not lost a match since the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London in November. Only John McEnroe in 1984 and Ivan Lendl in 1986 have made better starts to the season.
Djokovic recorded his ninth victory in his 25 meetings with Nadal despite being outplayed in the first set. The Serb appeared to struggle with the wind in the early stages, but regrouped and played some excellent tennis in the last two sets. His play at the net, in particular, was exceptional.
When Nadal broke in the third game with a thumping backhand passing shot, it was the first time in the tournament that Djokovic had dropped his serve. The Spaniard repeated the feat two games later and quickly took a 5-1 lead. Djokovic, nevertheless, was starting to find his range and the Spaniard dropped his serve for only the second time in the week when serving for the set at 5-2.
Two games later, however, Nadal converted his first set point when Djokovic put a forehand in the net.
It had taken Djokovic time to adjust to the conditions, but at the start of the second set the world No 2 took charge. He raced into a 3-0 lead, holding serve on a break-back point in the second game, despite having just smashed his racket on the ground in frustration after a missed shot, and served out the set with an ace.
Djokovic seemed to have taken the initiative, but Nadal responded in typical fashion in the third set. With both players hitting the ball cleanly, there were no breaks of serve as the contest went into a deciding tie-break. Nadal saved two match points from 6-2 down but had no answer to Djokovic's big forehand winner on the third.
"It was one of the best finals I've ever played in my life," Djokovic said afterwards. "It's always a great pleasure and honour to play against Rafa." Nadal himself admitted: "Nole was too good for me this afternoon."
The season now moves on to clay with the start of the Monte Carlo Masters next weekend. In the meantime, Federer will slip further behind the top two in the updated world rankings, while Andy Murray will climb one place to No 4, despite his poor recent run. The 23-year-old Scot swaps places with Robin Soderling, who drops points after failing to match his run to the semi-finals in Miami 12 months ago.