Novak Djokovic lifted the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals trophy for a third time on tonight.
Second seed Djokovic added to his 2008 and 2012 title runs with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over top seed Rafael Nadal, who finished runner-up for the second time, in the first No. 1 versus No. 2 final in the 44-year history of the prestigious season-ending championship.
Djokovic extended his winning streak to 22 matches with victory in one hour and 37 minutes at The O2 in London. He improved to a 41-21 record in title matches and to 7-2 this year.
The 26-year-old Serbian earned $1,923,000 in prize money and 1,500 Emirates ATP Rankings points, while 27-year-old Nadal took home $1,013,000 and 1,000 points as he dropped to a 10-4 record in finals this year.
Djokovic became the seventh player to win the year-end championship at least three times, joining Roger Federer (six titles), Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras (five each), Ilie Nastase (four), and Boris Becker and John McEnroe (three each).
Djokovic pierced Nadal’s defences early on in his third season-ending final. The depth of his groundstrokes ensured Nadal played well behind the baseline on the medium-paced indoor court. Two backhand errors cost Nadal as he was broken to 15 in the second game.
At 0-3, Nadal was battling to keep the set competitive. But when he struck a vicious forehand that kicked up to Djokovic’s backhand at 15/15 in the fourth game, the momentum of the match shifted. Djokovic’s first serve went off the boil and Nadal was able to play closer to the baseline, effectively giving Djokovic less time and space, to gain his first service break.
But a double fault at 3-4, 30/30, put him back in trouble with Djokovic smothering the net to break serve. He served out the set to 30, finishes with ace out wide. Nadal had won just 45 per cent of his second service points in the 44-minute opener.
Djokovic tightened his grip on the pair’s 39th FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting when he broke Nadal to 30 – on his third break point opportunity – in the third game of the second set. A big forehand into the corner saw Nadal flailing and his response went long.
Djokovic may well have taken a 5-2 lead, but Nadal fought hard to recover from 15/40. Djokovic created his first match point opportunity in the ninth game, when Nadal lunged too far for a backhand down the line. The Spaniard saved it at 30/40.
But Djokovic was not to be denied his seventh trophy of the year. Despite falling from 30/0 to 30/30, the World No. 2 held his nerve and clinched his third match point chance when Nadal hit a forehand wide.
Nadal had been attempting to become the third Spaniard to capture the title, after Manuel Orantes in 1975 and Alex Corretja in 1998. The last left-hander to win the year-end title was McEnroe in 1984.
Both players had remained undefeated en route to the championship match.
Nadal completes his season, which began in early February, with a 76-7 match record, which includes three major championships and five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns. He clinched year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the third time (also 2008 and 2010) on Wednesday with his second round robin win of the week.
Djokovic will next compete for Serbia against Czech Republic in the Davis Cup final, which begins on 15 November.
Congratulations to both players!