Madrid: Novak Djokovic earned his third straight final victory over top-ranked Rafael Nadal with a 7-5, 6-4 win at the Madrid Open on Sunday that stretched his unbeaten start to the season to 32 matches.
The second-ranked Djokovic cut Nadal's latest winning streak on clay at 37 matches with his first victory in 10 tries over the Spaniard on his favored surface. It was Djokovic's sixth title of 2011 and allowed him to surpass Bjorn Borg's 31-match unbeaten run from 1980. He now only trails the 42-0 start by John McEnroe in 1984.
Djokovic's 34 straight wins since Serbia's Davis Cup triumph in December is the eighth best of all time.
"Unbelievable," Djokovic commented on the winning streak before revealing his strategy. "I stepped on to the court today believing I could win. I needed to be aggressive and it was a great match."
Earlier, Petra Kvitova won her third title of the season by beating Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the women's final.
Nadal's last defeat on clay came nearly two years ago at the French Open with the French Open player winning six clay titles since. But Djokovic followed up final wins over Nadal in Miami and Indian Wells with one on home turf to hand him only his seventh clay loss in 196 matches dating to 2005.
Nadal had split the last two finals here with Roger Federer but the Djokovic was once against his toughest opponent at the Magic Box arena after the pair squared off in a record 4-hour plus semifinal in 2009 that Nadal won.
Djokovic, who took home a winner's cheque of €590,000 ($849,000), raced out 4-0 after Nadal netted to be broken for the second time.
Nadal broke back immediately and then pulled to within 5-4 after touching the corner to convert his second break point.
The Spaniard then saved a triple-set point to even it before Djokovic took the set on his fourth try when his backhand dropped off the top of the net, falling short to leave Nadal no chance and Djokovic after converting his third break.
Nadal charged up the capacity 12,500 fans in the opening game of the second set after lobbing the Australian Open champion with a no-look through the legs shot to set up a triple break chance. Nadal slammed a forehand down the line to break, but his opponent evened after breaking right back.
Djokovic never capitulated on any of the lengthy baseline rallies that mark a match that featured only nine net winners between the pair.
Djokovic's 26th winner set up break and match point and following an incredible rally that saw both players stretching across the baseline before Nadal slapped a backhand wide of the near line.
The 18th-ranked Kvitova won the first set tiebreaker when Azarenka shot long, and secured her first Masters series trophy when Azarenka returned long on the first championship point.
Azarenka only managed to convert three of nine break chances as Kvitova defended her serve well despite a shaky service game.
"I was very nervous and perhaps that was the problem," said Kvitova, who will be the sixth Czech player to reach the top-10 on Monday when she jumps to No. 10 in the WTA rankings. "I think it's the best tennis that I've played. I was very offensive."
Azarenka hit only 10 winners to go along with her 21 unforced errors. Perhaps sensing the missed opportunity, she broke down into tears after the loss.
"She (Kvitova) played great this week, (she) deserved it," said the Belorussian, who will jump one spot to a career-high of fourth in the rankings on despite coming up short in her bid for a third title this season.