Photos via Qatar Tennis Federation
“I played against a player who did everything perfect. I know nobody playing tennis like this ever. Since I know this sport I never saw somebody playing at this level,” said a humbled Nadal after his defeat.
Big words from the 14-time grand slam champion who could do nothing but applaud the superiority of his opponent rather than plunge into the abyss of frustration.
Back at the site of the only tournament he failed to reach the final at last season, Djokovic played with the kind of form so rarely exhibited from a player in the opening week of the season.
There were no signs of rust, no January jitters, simply perfection from tennis’ top man. Heading into the match, the players were locked at 23-23 in previous meetings but Djokovic walked off the court leading their head-to-head for the first time ever in his career.
With the Emir of Qatar, HH Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in the Royal Box, and the entire Bayern Munich team and their boss Pep Guardiola in attendance, Djokovic indeed gave a performance fit for the occasion.
“It did feel as close to perfection as it can get,” admitted Djokovic, who was playing his 16th consecutive final, and has now won a sixth straight tournament dating back to last year’s US Open.
“From the very beginning I managed to hit every shot the way I wanted, the way I imagined before the match.”
The security was amplified due to the high profile attendees and fans were held up in the queue outside for close to 40 minutes trying to make it through the metal detectors and into the venue to catch the final.
Lucky for them, they made it to the stadium in time to catch the ‘Djoko Show’, in which Nadal simply played a supporting role in front of a sellout crowd.
Djokovic had to save a break point in the opening game which gave a momentary feeling that the match would be competitive. But it was a misleading start as the top seed was quickly up 3-0 and swept the first set in 30 minutes, hitting 16 winners to a mere four unforced errors.
There wasn’t much Nadal was doing wrong but Djokovic was sending him left and right, pouncing on the Spaniard’s short balls and slamming one winner after the other.
The second set was no different as Djokovic broke in the first and fifth games to open up a 5-1 lead.
A fan yelled from the stands something to Nadal, instructing him to do better.
“You want to be my coach?” the Mallorcan responded. The truth is, no coach could get him out of trouble.
Djokovic soon wrapped up the 73-minute victory with a service winner to claim his first title in Doha.
It was his fifth consecutive win over Nadal, and he has now taken nine of their last 10 meetings.
Despite the brutal drubbing he received, Nadal somehow managed to keep things in perspective.
He joked on court during the trophy ceremony saying: “I found a new coach today too, I don’t know where he is, I think he’s travelling with me to Australia tonight,” referring to the fan who yelled at him during the match.
Later in the press conference, Nadal congratulated Djokovic and added: “I know I can do a few things better, but the real thing is with these conditions playing during the night and with the feeling of the ball here, it's so difficult to have chances against him playing like this. Is probably impossible.
“But the real thing is I had a positive week. I am playing well, and I gonna keep working hard to try to be ready for Australia. And I think I will be. I am motivated for it.”
Djokovic received the golden falcon trophy from surprise invitee Argentinean Gaston Gaudio, the 2004 Roland Garros champion. “This trophy will be very dear to my heart because it reminds me of someone very dear to my heart, my grandfather. He used to call me ‘Falcon’,” revealed an emotional Djokovic on court.
“Nadal is one of the greatest competitors this game has ever seen, but, you know, everything was going well. I could swing freely. Especially in the second set I felt like from both corners, any shot that I hit just felt so comfortable. There are those days when you see a tennis ball as a watermelon, and I guess this was that kind of day.”