Novak Djokovic prolonged his mastery over World No. 1 Rafael Nadal on hard courts, and Serbia and Spain will play a deciding doubles match for the ATP Cup title on Sunday night in Sydney.
Djokovic won his ninth consecutive match on hard courts against Nadal and extended his set win streak to 19 (since 2013 US Open final) against the World No. 1 with the 6-2, 7-6(4) win. The World No. 2 now leads the Open Era's most prolific head-to-head series 29-26.
“I was trying to take away as much time as possible from him. I was serving very well, definitely the best serving match I had in the tournament. Just extremely satisfied with the way I performed,” Djokovic said.
Djokovic dominated from the start, putting Nadal on the defensive with his return and during backhand-to-forehand rallies as Nadal struggled to keep pace.
Djokovic broke in the opening and seventh games to roars from the pro-Serbia crowd, who waved their flags as the World No. 2 served the set out to love behind four consecutive aces. "I started the match perfectly with everything working for me," Djokovic said.
Nadal saw his first five break points of the match in the sixth game of the second set, as Djokovic served 2-3, 0/40. But as the outnumbered yet vocal Spanish fans screamed, Djokovic erased them all, the final on a backhand-to-forehand rally that Nadal couldn't escape.
“Ser-bi-a! Ser-bi-a! Ser-bi-a!” the fans roared.
All ATP Cup, in Brisbane and Sydney, Djokovic and his teammates have been bolstered by the thousands of Serbians living in Australia and rooting for their home country. The marquee matchup of the final was their best showing yet.
Asked if he had ever played Nadal in such an atmosphere like tonight in Ken Rosewall Arena, Djokovic answered simply, “No".
“It was really unbelievable. The amount of support we got in Brisbane in the group stage and now here in Sydney. You guys took it to a new level,” he said.
In the second set, Nadal upped his aggression, serving and volleying and hitting through his backhand. He held throughout, including at 5-5 when he erased two break points.
“I did the most difficult thing: changed a little bit the dynamic of the match after that first set. Happy the way that I was able to compete,” Nadal said.
“I had my chances. I was very close. Not happy with the loss, of course, but the feeling in that second set is positive.”
But in the tie-break, Djokovic returned to his old reliable, blasting backhands to Nadal's forehand corner for a mini-break at 4/4 and served it out two points later.
In deciding doubles, Serbia will play Djokovic/Viktor Troicki against Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta/Feliciano Lopez.
“I have been playing a lot of tennis the last couple of days. My teammates have been playing great yesterday. My level of energy is a little bit lower than usual, because I played long yesterday, very long before yesterday, very long in [Perth] the last day,” Nadal said.
“So it's a team decision, and we believe in our team. That's why we had success in the past, because we were able to give the confidence to the rest of the players, and we give the confidence to Feliciano and Pablo.”