WORLD No2 Novak Djokovic continued his sensational winning streak in 2011 with victory over Rafael Nadal in the final of the Rome Masters.
The Serb has now won 39 consecutive matches – 37 this calendar year – and will head to Roland Garros for the French Open confident of adding to the Australian Open crown he claimed in January.
Nadal, previously close to unbeatable on clay, has now lost in four finals this year to Djokovic – in Indian Wells, Miami and, last week, on clay in Madrid, as well as Rome, with the French Open, the second grand slam of the season, starting on Sunday.
Nadal gave as good as he got in the opening exchanges but it was Djokovic Djokovic who struck first to break for a 5-3 lead when the Spaniard put too much on an attempted backhand pass.
Nadal struck back immediately but he could not stave off Djokovic’s charge and the Serbian broke again to wrap up the set.
The momentum continued in the second with Djokovic claiming the Nadal serve to go 2-0 up, but again he conceded the break in the next game as Nadal, a five-time winner in Rome, hit back as he tried to retain the title.
The match remained on serve until 4-5 on the Nadal serve but Djokovic upped his game to move 40-0 up and, after Nadal had saved the first three match points, the Serbian won it on his fourth by putting away a forehand.
Djokovic is now just seven wins away from matching the longest winning streak in ATP Tour history, a run of 46 consecutive victories achieved by Guillermo Vilas in 1977.