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Djokovic outlasts Nadal for fourth straight title

KEY BISCAYNE — The target of Novak Djokovic's most vicious forehand Sunday was a wooden ball box, and the swing produced an angry thud.

He disposed of another uncooperative racket by flinging it to the concrete, drawing jeers from an otherwise supportive crowd.

After that Djokovic fared better, as did his equipment. He staged his second comeback victory over top-ranked Rafael Nadal in as many weeks, this time to win the Sony Ericsson Open, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).

Djokovic remains ranked No. 2, but he heads into the clay-court season — Nadal is 9-0 against Djokovic on clay, his favorite surface — with a 26-match winning streak that includes four tournament titles. Djokovic's record of 24-0 in 2011 is the best to begin a year since Ivan Lendl started 25-0 in 1986.

Sunday's win in front of a record crowd of 14,625 ranked with the most impressive. On a sunny, 85-degree afternoon, Djokovic swapped shots with the sport's most physically punishing player for nearly 3½ hours.

Djokovic looked fresher at the finish.

"Such a close match," the Serb said. "To win against the No. 1 player of the world in a tiebreak in the third set, it's just incredible."

He whacked a cross-court winner on the final point then jumped with glee and signaled to encourage the roaring crowd. It's a familiar routine: His also won finals this year at the Australian Open, Dubai and Indian Wells.

"What he's doing is unbelievable," Nadal said. "First thing, he's very good; second thing, he's playing with big confidence. When you're winning, it's easier to keep winning."

Nadal hasn't won a tournament since Tokyo in October, but Djokovic is not ready to claim he deserves the No. 1 spot.

"It's the best four months in my life, but it's only the start of the season," he said. "It's a bit early to talk about getting that top spot in the rankings. Rafa is definitely the best player in the world now. If I want to have the No. 1 ranking, I need to play consistently well throughout the whole year."

Nadal fell to 0-3 in Key Biscayne finals.

Djokovic outlasts Nadal for fourth straight title 04/03/11 [Last modified: Sunday, April 3, 2011 10:56pm]
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