23 And Oh! Djokovic Remains Unbeaten, Kisses Another Masters 1000 Trophy

WASHINGTON, August 30, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic completed his second career Golden Masters when he won the Western & Southern Open men’s singles title for the second time, defeating 30th-ranked Milos Raonic 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours, on Saturday.

Djokovic extended his unbeaten string in 2020 to 23-0 and he remains the only player in ATP history to capture all nine ATP Masters 1000 titles. The 33-year-old Serbian also tied Rafael Nadal‘s record for most ATP Masters 1000 titles with 35.

Coming less than 24 hours after Djokovic survived a three-hour and one-minute semifinal against Spain’s eighth seed Roberto Bautista Agut, he had to come from behind to beat the Canadian No. 3 Raonic to win his 80th tour-level title. It took two hours to wrap up the victory inside Louis Armstrong Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., site of the upcoming US Open and this year’s temporary home of the Western & Southern Open.

“I would like to thank my team for hanging in there. Tough match yesterday, three hours,” Djokovic said during the trophy ceremony afterward. “I would like to take this opportunity to say hello to all the Cincinnati fans and tennis fans around the world. We miss you guys. It feels quite strange to be in these conditions and circumstances, but we all hope for a better tomorrow and you are one of the biggest reasons why we play professional tennis, so hopefully we can see you very, very soon.”

Later, a visibly tired Djokovic said, “I am trying to make the most of my career, trying to use this time when I feel that I am physically, mentally, emotionally, game-wise at [my] peak and playing some of the best tennis that I have ever played. Going on an unbeaten run so far this year obviously brings even more confidence each match.

”I’m just trying to enjoy it and embrace the process. How long that journey is going to last and what kind of legacy I’m going to leave behind, that’s on somebody else to really judge and, you know, and evaluate.

”But I’m trying to do my best. Obviously on the court with the goals and ambitions that I have, obviously I want to play my best tennis in Grand Slams and 1000 events. That’s what I’m focusing on right now. And also off the court, try to make the most out of the energy that I have preserved.”

Although Raonic came out strong in the opening set showing an aggressive style of play with his forehand and booming serve – and took advantage of a double-break to win the first set – it was Djokovic, who came roaring back after playing listless in the beginning. He found his rhythm while neutralizing Raonic’s serve and ground-stroke attack.

By the end of the match, although Raonic finished with 10 service aces and won points on 76 percent of his first serves, Djokovic was just a bit better overall. He won 74 percent of his first-serve points and 49 percent of his second serves. He also broke Raonic three times.

As Raonic was attempting to win the biggest title of his career to date – and a victory would have anointed him as the first Canadian to win a Masters 1000 title – instead, he’s now 0-4 in Masters 1000 finals and 0-11 lifetime against Djokovic.

“What is that, 23-0?” Raonic asked Djokovic during the trophy ceremony. “Honestly, if I start the year off 3-0, I’m pretty happy.”

Looking back, it was a difficult and challenging week for Djokovic, both on and off the court. On it, in two of his matches, he needed mid-match visits from a trainer to adjust his neck. However, it didn’t deter his enthusiasm for returning to the tour and winning the first tournament since the ATP Tour was suspended in March as the coronavirus pandemic struck the tennis world. Off the court, he and Canadian Vasek Pospisil are in the midst of forming a breakaway body to represent the interest of male tennis players outside the current structure of the ATP.

“In the past three, four days, I struggled a little bit with my physical condition, but I managed to pull this one through,” Djokovic said during the trophy presentation. “It was a very close encounter all the way through the last shot. It was anybody’s game.”

Next, Djokovic has a date on Monday evening in cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium, next door to Armstrong, in the first round of the US Open. His opponent will be No. 107 Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Carreño Busta and de Minaur win title in debut

Spanish-Australian duo Pablo Carreño Busta and Alex de Minaur won their team debut final with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over British pair Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski in a one hour and 23-minute match that began on the Grandstand and was moved indoors to Louis Armstrong Stadium for the final game after the match was suspended by rain with Carreño Busta and de Minaur one game from wrapping up the victory and title.

While Carreño Busta was competing in his fourth tour-level doubles final, it was the first one for de Minaur, who is ranked 26th in singles and will be seeded at the US Open.

“It was a good week for us,” said Carreño Busta. “We lost in the singles and we just tried to continue to play matches. It is important for us to get rhythm, to get confidence and I think the doubles, on this occasion, was good for this.

“We didn’t expect to arrive to a final and win the tournament, but we played the last matches better than the first ones.”

De Minaur added: “It’s a great feeling. I am very happy to be back on court and hopefully this week in doubles can give me some confidence and momentum going into next week.”