Doha: Novak Djokovic won his first title of 2016 on Saturday, playing "perfect" tennis to thrash arch-rival Rafael Nadal in straight sets during a breathtaking performance at the Qatar Open final.
Novak Djokovic returns to Rafael Nadal in the Qatar Open final in Doha on Saturday. Pic/AFP
A near faultless world number one cruised to victory 6-1, 6-2 in a match lasting just one hour 13 minutes. The win not only secured the 60th career title for the Serb but also means he is leading for the first time in his head-to-head battle with Nadal, winning 24 of the 47 matches they have now played against each other.
"I played pretty much perfect tennis today from the very beginning I managed to get every shot the way I wanted," said Djokovic afterwards.
"The way I played today gives me great satisfaction." He added that he was playing the best tennis of his career. Djokovic was brilliant throughout and his victory was so comprehensive it will send a message to the rest of the tennis world that he aims to dominate exactly as he did in 2015 when he won three of the four majors.
He hit 30 winners, forced seven break points and faced only one himself, which, predictably, he saved. Throughout the week in Qatar he did not drop a set and his victory means he won the only tournament in which he didn't make the final in 2015.
Watched by a full house -- where spectators included players and officials from Bayern Munich as well as Premier League-bound coach Pep Guardiola -- the result was never in doubt. Djokovic broke Nadal's serve twice in each set and was in control throughout.
Nadal took until the fourth game to get on the scoreboard but it proved only a brief respite as Djokovic breezed through the first set in 30 minutes. He immediately took control of the second, breaking the Spaniard's serve in the very first game. Any hope of a typical comeback from Nadal was fully extinguished in the fifth game when Djokovic broke a second time to go 4-1 ahead.
It was the 16th consecutive final for Djokovic who last lost a tournament in August last year in the US. What the defeat will do for Nadal's confidence though, desperate to return to his Grand-Slam winning form, is anyone's guess.
Rarely can the current world number five have been beaten so easily and he cut a forlorn figure after the match as he waited for the presentation ceremony. He tried to remain upbeat immediately after the defeat saying he had made "a positive start to the season". But he added that Djokovic had played like never before.
"Well, for the match is easy to analyse," Nadal told reporters. "I played against a player who did everything perfect. I know nobody playing tennis like this ever. Since I know this sport I never saw somebody playing at this level." Djokovic won a first prize of $201,165 (184,124 euros) while Nadal, playing in his 99th final, took home $105,940 (96,965 euros).