“A nice Spanish restaurant in South Kensington with family and friends,” was how Fernando Verdasco said he and doubles partner David Marrero would celebrate their pulsating World Tour Finals victory over the Bryan brothers, the US world number one pairing that bestrides the team event and has won 15 Grand Slam titles among a career haul of 93. Unsurprisingly, Verdasco and Marrero, ranked eight and five in doubles respectively, has never got the better of the Bryans. What a setting to reverse that statistic, in a tightly contested 7-5, 6-7, 10-7 victory.
“I thought it was pretty good tennis,” said Mike Bryan. “We didn’t play poorly. They came up with the goods, especially when it mattered. They went for broke.”
But later on Sunday night in London, Spain’s Rafa Nadal could do nothing to prevent Novak Djokovic taking the singles title 6-3, 6-4 with a consummate display, winning 27 points on return and 70 percent of those contested on his second serve. The world number two also showcased his great athleticism and shot-making ability with an almost impossible lobbed retrieve in the first set, a segment of one of the points of the tournament. Key to victory for the Serb, who will represent his country in the Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic this weekend, was the depth of his shots, which kept Nadal pegged behind the baseline. On his least favored surface, the Spaniard has been playing more aggressively, trying to shorten points and take shots early slightly inside the court.
“We push each other to the limit,” said Novak Djokovic of his cordial rivalry with world number one Nadal after lifting his third ATP World Tour Finals title. “We make each other better. The defeats in big matches against him have made me understand what I have to do to be a stronger and better player. Maybe next season will be the one when I can challenge Rafa at Roland Garros.”
For Nadal, defeat will have tasted bitter as the Masters Cup / World Tour Finals is the one major title missing from his resume. But considering that this time last year he was in the midst of a seven-month injury absence this season has been a phenomenal success, reaping two Grand Slam titles and five Masters triumphs in a 75-7 win-loss record, as well as the year-end number one ranking for only the third time in his extraordinary career.
“One thing that made the difference in today's match was the serve,” said Nadal after the match. “I didn’t serve well, he served well. On this kind of court, the first shot is very important and he hit that first shot much better than me.”
Nadal and Djokovic are scheduled to play two exhibition matches in South America in the close season.