World Number 2 Novak Djokovic defeated Number 1 Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-3 in their 40th meeting in Sunday’s Sony Open Tennis final.
The top-seeded Spaniard, who was seeking a maiden Miami crown, maintains a 22-18 advantage over Djokovic in the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
Djokovic, however, has emerged victorious in 14 of their 21 meetings on hard courts, also picking up wins when the duo last met in Miami in 2007 and 2011.
Djokovic, a four-time champion in Crandon Park, also prevailing in 2007, 2011 and 2012, has passed Andre Agassi for third on the all-time Masters 1000 titles list with 18 trophies.
Here is how the final unfolded.
FIRST SET – Djokovic 6-3
Proceedings commenced on a sun-drenched, yet windy, Miami afternoon with Djokovic taking the early initiative in front of a boisterous crowd.
The Number 2 seed burst out of the gates despite a sluggish start, having not played since Wednesday due to a semi-final walkover. Refusing to yield an inch from the baseline, both players opened with considerable heat on their groundstrokes.
Djokovic was forced to stave off a break point in the first game of the match, shedding some early rust. The Serb’s movement was not as fluid and his return not as sharp as it had been earlier in the week, and he was unable to penetrate Nadal’s serve in the initial stages.
But the Belgrade native settled in, surviving a 30/30 game on his serve at 2-2, rifling a cross-court backhand that drew an error from Nadal.
The World Number 1 dropped just one of nine service points through his first two service games, but he fell behind 0/30 while serving down 2-3 following two missed first serves. Djokovic would clip the back edge of the baseline with a forehand winner to give him a pair of break points, and he would convert on the first for the opening break of the match.
Djokovic continued his aggressive play as the set wore on, attacking the net often and pouncing on any short balls left hanging inside the baseline.
They would remain on serve for the remainder of the set, culminating with a Djokovic hold on a service winner.
Djokovic fired two aces and nine winners in the first set, winning four of five forays to the net. The winner of the first set has claimed the last nine encounters in the rivalry.
SECOND SET – Djokovic 6-3
Djokovic continued to apply pressure on Nadal’s serve in the second set, securing a break of serve in the opening game with yet another cross-court backhand winner.
Nadal would respond with an immediate 0/30 look at Djokovic’s next service game, but the three-time champ would dig deep for the hold for 2-0.
Djokovic refused to allow Nadal to penetrate his defence with his deep cross-court topspin forehands to the deuce court, maintaining the pressure throughout the second set. He continued to empty his bag of tricks with effective slice approaches and superior net play.
The Spaniard would deny another break opportunity in the fifth game, despite hitting his first double fault of the match, and survived a deuce game serving down 2-4.
Nadal would not be as fortunate while serving to stay in the match at 3-5. Djokovic earned two match points at 15/40 after a deep return that caught Nadal off-balance, and claimed his fourth Miami title on the next point following a thrilling rally.
Nadal was unable to make inroads in his counterpart’s serve in the second set, winning just four of 21 return points. He would uncharacteristically hit 11 forehand unforced errors in the match, while Djokovic fired 22 total winners, including five off the backhand wing.
Djokovic captures his second Indian Wells-Miami double with the win, joining Roger Federer as the only players in history to achieve the feat.