Djokovic wins W&S Open, ties Nadal’s record

Tennis

NEW YORK — Novak Djokovic tied Rafael Nadal‘s record by winning his 35th title at a Masters 1000 tournament, overcoming a sluggish start to beat Milos Raonic 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the Western & Southern Open final Saturday and remain unbeaten this season.

Getting tuned up ahead of the US Open, which starts Monday, the No. 1-ranked Djokovic improved to 23-0 in 2020 and 11-0 head-to-head against Raonic, the 2016 Wimbledon runner-up.

The Western & Southern Open normally is held in Ohio but was moved to Flushing Meadows this year because of the coronavirus pandemic as part of a two-tournament “controlled environment.”

Djokovic, who owns 17 Grand Slam titles, played Raonic in Louis Armstrong Stadium — the No. 2 court for the US Open — with the roof closed because of rain.

Djokovic was listless in the first set, looking exactly the way one might have expected given that he labored through a three-hour semifinal a day earlier, repeatedly grabbing his stomach and twice having his neck massaged by a trainer.

It took all of 30 minutes for Raonic, a Canadian ranked No. 30, to take that set. Djokovic never held so much as a single break point until 61 minutes into the final, at 3-2 in the second set, and he raised his right fist when his backhand passing shot converted the chance.

Soon enough it was a set apiece, and Raonic appeared to regroup quickly, breaking to go up 2-0 in the third.

But Djokovic, never one to go quietly, broke right back at love. He broke again the next time Raonic served, bellowing to celebrate the 3-2 edge.

Eventually, the 33-year-old from Serbia was raising his arms to mark his 80th career title and 61st on hard courts. Jimmy Connors holds the men’s record of 109 titles; the only others with more than Djokovic are Roger Federer, Ivan Lendl and Nadal.

Djokovic also won the Western & Southern Open in 2018 and is now the first man to win each Masters 1000 event — one level below the Grand Slams — at least twice.

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