Djokovic stuns clay master Nadal to take Madrid crown

Rafael Nadal went into yesterday's final of the Madrid Masters having won his last 37 matches on clay, a run dating back to his defeat at the hands of Robin Soderling at the 2009 French Open. Novak Djokovic, his opponent, had won 33 matches in succession since last November, taking tournaments in Melbourne, Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami and Belgrade.

It was a match in which something had to give and, in front of his home crowd, it was Nadal who cracked. Djokovic prevailed 7-5, 6-4 to win his 32rd match in a row this year, the best start to a season since John McEnroe's 42 unbeaten matches in 1984. Nadal remains world No 1, but Djokovic is closing the gap and looks likely to overtake him in the next few weeks.

This was Djokovic's 24th title, his eighth in the Masters Series and his sixth on clay. Describing his achievement in keeping his unbeaten streak going as "unbelievable", he added: "I stepped on to the court today believing I could win. I needed to be aggressive and it was a great match."

Djokovic is only 23 and Nadal 24, yet this was their 24th meeting. The Spaniard had won 16 of their previous matches and all eight of their encounters on clay, but Djokovic has now won six of their last eight matches, including Masters Series finals earlier this year in Indian Wells and Miami.

A match between the world's two best players lived up to all expectations. There were some sensational rallies, both players striking the ball with enormous power and covering the court with great athleticism, and some wonderful shots, including an astonishing through-the-legs lobbed winner by Nadal at the start of the second set.

When they met in the Madrid semi-finals two years ago Nadal won in three sets after more than four hours. When Djokovic took the first set after an hour and eight minutes another marathon seemed on the cards, but from that point the Serb tightened his grip.

Nadal, who had beaten Roger Federer in three sets in Saturday's semi-finals, got off to the worst possible start, losing the first four games. Finding his rhythm immediately, Djokovic appeared to surprise the Spaniard with the sheer weight of his shots.

When he served at 5-3 and 30-0 Djokovic had a chance to create three set points, but with the court at his mercy he inexplicably hit the ball straight at his opponent, who cracked a backhand, cross-court winning pass. Djokovic then put a forehand into the net and a backhand wide before Nadal took the game with a thumping forehand.

More chances came Djokovic's way in the next game, which lasted 13 minutes. The world No 2 forced three set points, but scorned them with a missed return of serve, a forehand error and a backhand into the tramlines as Nadal levelled at 5-5.

The momentum appeared to have swung Nadal's way, but Djokovic won the next eight points in succession to take the set after an hour and eight minutes. Nevertheless luck was on his side when he took his fourth set point, a backhand striking the top of the net and trickling over the other side.

Nadal broke in the opening game of the second set, but Djokovic responded immediately. A cross-court backhand eventually gave the Serb three match points and he converted the second when Nadal sliced wide.

"I came up against a great player obviously – he's having a monster year," Nadal said afterwards. "He was better, you have to accept that."

The Spaniard added: "The world No 1 ranking is not in danger – it's finished. Let's not lie to ourselves, that's the reality. Nobody likes to lose. I have to see what's missing and work with a cool, open mind to decipher things and find the solutions."

Petra Kvitova won the women's title to maintain her steady progress. The 21-year-old Czech, who will climb into the world's top 10 for the first time in today's updated ranking list, beat Victoria Azarenka 7-6, 6-4. Kvitova, an aggressive player with big groundstrokes, hit 40 winners in the match to claim her third title of the year. "I think it's the best tennis that I've played," she said afterwards.

Azarenka broke down in tears at the end after hitting only 10 winners and making 21 unforced errors. Nevertheless, the 21-year-old from Belarus has enjoyed a fine run of late and will replace Francesca Schiavone at No 4 in today's rankings list.

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album