Keeping his winning streak in 2020 unbroken, Novak Djokovic beat Milos Raonic 1-6 6-3 6-4 on Saturday in the final of the Western & Southern Open. The 33-year-old Serbian survived a first-set scare to dominated the remainder of the match.
With the victory on Saturday, the 17-time Grand Slam winner extending his winning run in 2020 to 23-0. The Serbian also won his 80th career title, and in the process equaled Rafael Nadal's record of 35 Masters 1000 wins.
Shaky Start, Powerful End
Battling through a neck injury, Djokovic struggled early in the match as he produced four double faults in the first set. Raonic took advantage of the world number one's misfiring serve to close out the set in just 30 minutes.
"Was a bit slow at the beginning, but I thought I did well, considering the form that Milos is in," the 33-year-old Serbian told reporters. "He's serving rockets on the court, and it's really hard to return. You need all the freshness mentally and all the focus that you can possibly have." Djokovic, who had beaten the 29-year-old Canadian in all 10 of their previous match-ups, came roaring back, unleashing his powerful forehand and winning four straight games in the final set.
A Tense US Open
The tournament, a final tune-up ahead of the US Open, which begins on Monday, was staged in front of empty stands at Flushing Meadows instead of its usual venue in Mason near Cincinnati, Ohio. The tournament formed part of a secure bubble that was created due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Djokovic faces Bosnia's Damir Dzumhur on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday in the first round of the Grand Slam, which is being staged without any fans in attendance this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.
"There is a certain tension," said Djokovic, who was heavily criticized earlier this year after he and three other players contracted COVID-19 during an exhibition event he had organized in the Balkan region. "Everyone is obviously being careful, but at the same time everyone needs to pay attention and follow the protocols and restrictions that are in place."
(With inputs from agencies)