DOHA – After being crushed by Novak Djokovic 6-1, 6-2 in the Qatar Open final on Saturday, Rafael Nadal admired the Serb’s handiwork.
“I played against a player who did everything perfect,” Nadal said. “I know nobody playing tennis like this ever. Since I know this sport, I never saw somebody playing at this level.
“When I say perfect, it’s not one thing in particular. It’s everything. If not, it’s not perfect.”
Even Djokovic impressed himself.
“It did feel as close to perfection as it could get,” said Djokovic, who didn’t drop a set all week.
“From the first to last point I managed to impose my own tactical strategy. I came out on the court with the right intention, right intensity, and with a great deal of confidence I carried from the last season.”
This marked his 16th straight final — and 12th title — since he lost in the Qatar Open quarterfinals last year.
Going into the final, Djokovic and Nadal were tied at 23 wins apiece in their career matchups, the most between any players in ATP history.
At 24-23, Djokovic holds a career edge against the Spaniard for the first time. Djokovic has won nine of their last 10 matches.
This marked Djokovic’s 16th straight final — and 12th title — since he lost in the Qatar Open quarterfinals last year.
Djokovic posted 30 winners to only nine for Nadal in the 73-minute match.
Djokovic broke Nadal’s serve twice in each set, and saved the one break point he faced in the opening game of the match.
“Everything was going well,” Djokovic said. “I could swing freely. Any shot I did just felt so comfortable. There are those days when you see the ball like it’s a watermelon, and this was that kind of day.”
Nadal, who was playing in his 99th career final, said he’s happy with his progress since coming back from a long injury layoff at last year’s Qatar Open.
Nevertheless, the 14-time Grand Slam champion wouldn’t predict when he’d win another Grand Slam title.
“Maybe I am three weeks away, maybe I am five months away, or six or nine, or maybe I am forever away,” Nadal said. “You never know how these things go.”
Azarenka captures title
Brisbane Australia AP
A polished victory at the Brisbane International finally ended a prolonged, disorganized and painful wait between titles for Victoria Azarenka, extending back to August 2013 when she beat Serena Williams in Cincinnati.
She won the Australian Open that year, too, successfully defending her 2012 title, and in a period when she was at the peak of her game.
Coming to Brisbane, the season-opening event she won in its inaugural year in 2009, Azarenka was unseeded after slipping in the rankings to No. 22 at the end of 2015 following two injury-interrupted seasons.
With a renewed determination, sense of order and maturity and fewer distractions, she broke the drought with a 6-3, 6-1 win over fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber on Saturday night for her 18th career title.
“It feels like an accomplishment . . . I’m not sure I feel relief,” she said. “I wanted to win the title, but I didn’t feel, ‘If this doesn’t happen the world is going to end.’ I think that’s when you get like relief.”