Serbia’s Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus won the men’s and women’s singles titles respectively at the ATP/WTA Western & Southern Open, the ATP/WTA event usually held in Cincinnati but staged inside the U.S. Open’s “bubble” in New York this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
World No. 1 Djokovic defeated Canadian Milos Raonic in the final 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 to take the men’s title and completed his second career Masters sweep.
Djokovic, who is now enjoying a perfect 23-0 in 2020, is the only player in history to win all nine ATP Masters 1000 titles. And now he has claimed them all twice. The 33-year-old also tied Rafael Nadal’s record for most Masters 1000 trophies with 35.
“I am trying to make the most of my career, trying to use this time when I feel that I am physically, mentally, emotionally, game-wise at my peak and playing some of the best tennis that I have ever played,” Djokovic said. “Going on an unbeaten run so far this year obviously brings even more confidence each match.”
It wasn’t easy for the Serbian, though. Djokovic got off to a sluggish start in the first set against Raonic and had to dig deep to find his best form, clinching his 80th tour-level title after two hours’ battle.
“The first set obviously he was playing great, I made some double faults, handed two breaks to him,” Djokovic said. “It’s always hard playing Milos. He has one of the best serves in the game, puts so much pressure on your service games. He steps in, he’s going more for his shots from the back of the court.”
In women’s singles final, Azarenka won the title even without swinging her racket as her Japanese opponent Naomi Osaka withdrew citing a left hamstring injury, leaving Azarenka to claim her 21st WTA tour title.
The Japanese player said: “I’m sorry to have to withdraw today with an injury. I pulled my left hamstring yesterday in the second set tiebreak and it has not recovered overnight as I had hoped. This has been an emotional week and I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support.”
Osaka defeated Elise Mertens of Belgium in the previous matchday.
“I think it’s unfortunate because I was actually really looking forward to competing against Naomi,” Azarenka said. “It would have been an amazing opportunity to face her level, and she’s been playing really great. I lost to her the last time that we played, so I was really looking forward to that.”
“And playing the final is always really special. I just have to accept what it is. I would have loved to have played, but I played some really good matches this week, and I think I deserve to be where I am today,” added Azarenka, a two-time Grand Slam champion.
The final-round walk-over marks one of the biggest matches in tennis history where a final was not played. The most famous occasion where a major tournament final was not played came at Wimbledon in 1931 when the Wimbledon men’s singles final was not played due to injury by Frank Shields, the grandfather of actress Brooke Shileds, who ceded the final to good friend and U.S. Davis Cup teammate Sidney Wood. The amazing tale is documented in the book “The Wimbledon Final That Never Was . . .: And Other Tennis Tales from a By-Gone Era” for sale and download here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0942257847/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_Ff5sFbNWE6RYN via Amazon
In women’s doubles, Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands got past Xu Yifan from China and American Nicole Melichar 6-1, 4-6, 10-4 to claim the title while Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain and Australian Alex De Minaur overcame British team of Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski 6-2, 7-5 to win the men’s doubles title.