MIAMI (AFP) - World number one Novak Djokovic won his third consecutive ATP Miami Open title on Sunday (April 3), downing Japanese sixth seed Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-3 for a record-matching sixth crown overall.
The 28-year-old Serbian captured his fifth trophy in six seasons on the Florida hardcourts to equal Andre Agassi's Miami record total and took a record 28th career ATP Masters title, one better than the old mark he shared with Rafael Nadal.
“I have a very special connection to this tournament,” Djokovic said. “Back in 2007 at Miami it was the biggest tournament that I had won. It has been a springboard for everything that has come after that.”
By taking home US$1.028 million (S$1.388 million) for the title, Djokovic surpassed Roger Federer as the all-time ATP prize money leader, his US$98,199,548 nudging him beyond the US$97,855,881 of the Swiss 17-time Grand Slam champion, who pulled out of Miami with a stomach virus.
Djokovic, who took his 63rd career ATP title, stretched his Miami win streak to 16 matches with his 30th victory in 31 starts dating to 2011 and improved to 28-1 on the season, the lone loss coming when an eye problem forced him to retire in a Dubai quarter-final against Spain’s Feliciano Lopez.
Djokovic, who in January won at Doha and captured an 11th career Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, also swept the US double of Miami and Indian Wells for the third year in a row and fourth time overall. The only other man with three Miami crowns in a row was Agassi from 2001 to 2003.
Nishikori, who made 30 unforced errors against just 10 winners, suffered his sixth consecutive loss in meetings with Djokovic, who leads their career rivalry 7-2. Nishikori fell to 2-10 all-time against world number ones.
“It was a tough match,” Nishikori said. “Playing Novak is always a great challenge for me.”
Djokovic, who didn’t drop a set at Miami, broke Nishikori in four of his first five service games to seize command. The Serb began his 19th final in 21 events with an exchange of breaks, then traded breaks in the sixth and seventh games, backhand winners sealing the win for each.
But Nishikori miss-hit a backhand to hand Djokovic a break in the eighth game and the defending champion held at love to take the opening set after 34 minutes. Nishikori stumbled to start the second set, ending a 33-shot rally with a wide backhand to give Djokovic a break point and then handing him the lead by spraying a backhand volley wide.
After Nishikori saved a break point and held to pull within 4-3, he had a trainer treat his left knee before resuming. Djokovic held for 5-3 and then broke for the title, taking advantage on his third match point when Nishikori hit a forehand long to end it after 86 minutes.
As part of his victory celebration, Djokovic kissed his left hand and patted it on the court several times. “I certainly hope the love affair continues in the years to come,” Djokovic said.
While Nishikori was in only his second career ATP Masters final, after Madrid in 2014, Djokovic was in his 11th consecutive such final, improving his record in the elite events to 56-2. Nishikori, 26, failed in his bid to become the first Asian player to claim an ATP Masters title and missed a chance at his 12th career ATP crown.