In their 47th career meeting, Novak Djokovic owned Rafael Nadal in the Doha championship match. There was nothing close about this one: 6-1, 6-2. In the first set, Novak broke immediately in game-2, delivered another break up 4-1, then served out the set. In the second, he broke to open the set and never looked back. He’d break again, pushing his lead to 4-1, then three games later, hoisted his 60th career singles trophy.
Afterwards, I sat down with Novak’s coach Marian Vajda and agent Edoardo Artaldi. They both appeared stunned. Novak played perfect tennis against his toughest opponent, and made it look effortless. Marian was at a loss for words. Edoardo said we may have possibly witnessed the best match Novak had ever played. Even Novak was impressed with how everything fell into place for him…
Saturday night was Novak’s 16th consecutive ATP World Tour Final. He has now won 12 titles since falling to Ivo Karlovic in the Doha Quarterfinals this time last year – including 3 Grand Slams, 6 Masters-1000 titles and his 4th consecutive year-end ATP World Tour Championship. That’s insane. Dominance unquestioned.
In the trophy ceremony following the match, Novak talked about how much he’d treasure the Doha title, specifically the imagery of the falcon. Novak’s grandfather nicknamed him “Falcon” before he could even walk. Embracing the trophy, you could feel the memory’s emotional significance for the World #1.
Prior to the trophy presentation, the Qatar Tennis Federation ignited the court with fire dancers, flamethrowers, special effects and kettle drummers – all choreographed to David Guetta’s “Titanium.” It was a pretty intense ceremony courtside, dodging columns of fire between voiceovers. Kudos to both Rafa and Nole for enduring the entire four minutes without ducking into the locker room. Here’s what it looked like from a fan’s perspective…
Okay. “So what’s up with Nadal?” – A popular question for the past 12-months. Here’s the reality: The 14-time Grand Slam champ looks solid. Yes, he admittedly struggled with confidence-issues throughout 2015; but here in Doha, he’s attacked opponents fearlessly with impressive control of groundstrokes from both sides. As a fan, it has been encouraging to watch. Simply put: Nadal played an unbeatable version of Novak Djokovic in the Final. There were zero holes to exploit in Nole’s game. We will certainly see…but after week-one of the season, Rafael Nadal deserves to carry a swagger and raw confidence into the season’s first Slam Down Under.
A true champion, even in defeat, Rafael Nadal is no stranger to delighting fans. While getting trounced during the championship match, a fan in the upper-section of the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex was shouting out advice between points. Rafa actually stopped play at one point to ask him if he wanted to come down and sit in the coach’s box with Toni. During the trophy presentation, Rafa acknowledged that fan again…
RESULTS. Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2016. Singles Championship.
 N. Djokovic (SRB) d  R. Nadal (ESP) 6-1, 6-2
NOVAK DJOKOVIC. Champion.
FF def. Rafael Nadal 6-1, 6-2
SF def. Tomas Berdych 6-3, 7-6(3)
QF def. Leonardo Mayer 6-3, 7-5
2R def. Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 6-2
1R def. Dustin Brown 6-2, 6-2
RAFAEL NADAL. Road to the Final.
SF def. Illya Marchenko 6-3, 6-4
QF def. Andrey Kuznetsov 6-3, 5-7, 6-4
2R def. Robin Haase 6-3, 6-2
1R def. Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-1