Following that mind-blowing run in 2011 and another reliable season after that, Novak Djokovic had lost the supremacy over the rest of the Tour when Rafael Nadal bounced back in 2013, with the Spaniard winning ten ATP titles and finishing as the year-end no.
1 player. Despite a rather slow start of 2014 season, Djokovic was back at the top of men's tennis and it all started with his second 'Sunshine Double' in Indian Wells and Miami where he competed on a high level to leave the closest rivals behind and reduce the deficit to Rafael Nadal before the start of the clay season.
In Indian Wells, Novak toppled Roger Federer in the final in the deciding tie break and had a much easier job in Miami, playing only four matches (two walkovers) and taking all eight sets to lift the fourth title in Florida.
Like many times before, Djokovic and Nadal met in the title match after Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori gave them walkovers in the semi-final, something that probably never happened before. It was the 40th clash between two great rivals and Novak scored the third straight win, beating the Spaniard 6-3, 6-3 in an hour and 24 minutes for the 18th triumph over Rafa and 43rd ATP title, the 18th on Masters 1000 level to leave Andre Agassi on 17.
The Serb grabbed the seventh triumph in the last nine encounters on hard courts against Rafa, earning it after hitting more winners and fewer unforced errors and controlling the pace with a sharp display on both serve and return to leave the great rival behind.
Nadal was powerless against the sheer power of Novak's shots, falling behind in the shortest, mid-range and most extended rallies to finish runner-up for the fourth time in Miami in the last nine years, still seeking the elusive crown in Florida!
Both players served at 71% and Novak was the one who drew the most from that, losing 11 points on serve and repelling the only break point he faced to keep the pressure on the other side of the court. Nadal dropped 44% of the points behind the initial shot, playing against four break chances and suffering three breaks to propel Novak over the finish line.
Djokovic tamed Nadal's forehand like probably no one before, forcing the Spaniard to cover the entire court and spreading him from one side to another with clinical hitting from both wings that gave him a considerable advantage.
Interestingly, Rafa created that lone break opportunity in the opening game of the match after placing a forehand winner, denied by a well-constructed attack from Novak who forced an error in game six to draw first blood and grab a break to open a 4-2 gap.
A service winner cemented the lead for the Serb, hitting another one in the ninth game to wrap up the opener 6-3 after 39 minutes. Ruling the court, Novak opened the space in the first game of the second set to place a backhand crosscourt winner and earn an early break, taking 21 of the last 30 points for complete domination!
Rafa saved a break chance in the fifth game to stay within one break deficit, never getting a chance to pull the break back and serving at 3-5 to stay in the tournament. Eager to take the trophy as soon as possible, Novak broke in that ninth game with a crafty point at the net, celebrating the crown and delivering an important win over the rival who managed to match his pace in the previous season and take the throne from him.