09:19 AM GMT May 12, 2019
In just one week, Novak Djokovic has gone from searching for form to making history.
The World No. 1 defeated #NextGenATP Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday to win the Mutua Madrid Open, equalling Rafael Nadal’s record of 33 ATP Masters 1000 titles. It is also Djokovic’s 200th victory against a Top 10 opponent (200-90).
"These are the best tournaments, biggest tournaments we have in our sport, in the ATP, of course alongside the Grand Slams," Djokovic said on court after his win. "This is as important and as good as it gets."
Djokovic arrived in the Caja Magica having made just one quarter-final in three tournaments since lifting the trophy at the Australian Open. But the Serbian found his top level for a third triumph in Madrid, having also emerged victorious in 2011 and 2016. The 31-year-old has never lost a championship match in the Spanish capital (3-0) and he now owns 74 tour-level trophies (74-33).
Most ATP Masters 1000 Titles
|T1. Rafael Nadal||33|
|T1. Novak Djokovic||33|
|3. Roger Federer||28|
|4. Andre Agassi||17|
|5. Andy Murray||14|
"I'm very pleased. I was saying after yesterday's semi-final win that it was a very, very important win for me for my confidence. I wasn't playing my best tennis after Australia so I was looking to regain the momentum this week. I started off well. I didn't drop a set the entire tournament, so I'm very pleased. I played some of my best tennis here."
Djokovic put immediate pressure on the reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion, earning two break points in Tsitsipas’ first service game. Although the eighth seed staved off the Serbian’s first opportunity with an inside-out forehand winner, Tsitsipas missed an inside-in forehand approach shot long to give the top seed the early break.
That set the tone for the match, and Djokovic never cracked in his one-hour, 33-minute victory. He did not face a break point in the match to earn €1,202,520 and 1,000 ATP Ranking points.
"Obviously I needed to step in. He's very talented. He beat Rafa yesterday and I think they finished the match around midnight. He had a very late night. I could see he wasn't as dynamic in his movements as he was last night. That's probably due to the long match he had. But he's had a terrific week and it's a big win obviously for me today and in this tournament. I'm really looking forward to continuing this streak in Rome."
Djokovic will lead World No. 2 Nadal by 4,170 points when the new ATP Rankings are released on Monday. And since Nadal has 2,280 more points than Djokovic to defend at Rome and Roland Garros, the Serbian has a firm hold on the top spot as he gets set to pursue a record 34th Masters 1000 title at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.
Tsitsipas made a concerted effort early on to use his drop shot against the World No. 1, doing his best to keep the top seed off balance. But Djokovic was locked in from the baseline, neutralising the Greek’s serve to immediately get himself to neutral in rallies, even when returning.
Djokovic earned two break chances to take an early lead in the second set, but he uncharacteristically missed a forehand return long and then sailed a backhand long mid-rally on his second chance. While Tsitsipas did well to hold serve his next few service games, Djokovic found his best when it mattered most.
At 4-4, 15/30 in the second set, Djokovic threw a lob high into the Madrid sky, somehow landing it near the baseline, before hitting a Tsitsipas overhead for a backhand winner to give him two more break points. This time the top seed did not make a mistake, using a Tsitsipas error to break before serving out the match, finishing it off with a forehand approach shot for a winner.
Tsitsipas, who defeated Nadal in the semi-finals, had won the pair’s only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting last year in Toronto en route to his first Masters 1000 final. He was trying to become the ninth first-time winner at this level over the past 18 Masters 1000 tournaments.
Despite the loss, Tsitsipas leads the ATP Tour in wins this year with 27, and he will climb to a career-high World No. 7 on Monday. The three-time ATP Tour titlist leaves Spain with 600 points and €608,700 in prize money.
"He deserved the victory, he played unbelievable. I couldn't do much," Tsitsipas said. "Physically I was not there. My legs were not coping with my mind. Completely I could feel the fatigue and this soreness, not just in my legs, but everywhere in my body. And yes, he played quite smart. He tried moving me around the court. He knew I had a tough match last night, so he took advantage of that knowing that he's going to have to make me run and suffer more and I just didn't have solutions."