Djokovic Completes Dominant Week, Beats Cilic For Tel Aviv Title
Novak Djokovic sent a message to the rest of the ATP Tour this week — he is near his best.
The top seed defeated second seed Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday to clinch the Tel Aviv Watergen Open trophy. With the victory the Serbian became the first man to win a title on hard, clay (Rome) and grass courts (Wimbledon) this season.
“My approach is to win tournaments wherever I am and I’m glad that I have a team of people around me that makes sure that I am in the best shape in order to be a contender to win titles,” Djokovic said. “That’s why I came to Israel, was to try to win the title. First time playing here [since a] Davis Cup tie more than 15 years ago, so it was a really amazing experience.”
Djokovic did not lose a set at the indoor hard-court ATP 250, where he was never in difficulty against a lineup of dangerous opponents. The 35-year-old claimed his third tour-level crown of 2022 and the 89th of his career.
“I played some very good tennis, I think. I [didn’t] drop a set the entire week,” Djokovic said. “I hadn’t played a tournament in three months, so it was really extra motivation for me to really do well, particularly because people have been so friendly and so supportive of me throughout the week. I’m taking some great confidence into next week as well.”
Cilic entered the final having faced just four break points all week, but he was under pressure on serve throughout the championship clash. Djokovic found great depth on his returns against the big-serving Croatian, which set the tone.
Djokovic consistently threatened his opponents’s serve with his play from the back of the court, while he dominated his own service games behind his first serve. The Serbian did not face a break point in the first set and when he found himself in trouble at deuce while serving for the set, he responded with back-to-back aces.
The top seed then broke for the second time in the match to start the second set, with a deep return again paying dividends. That advantage proved to be enough as Djokovic claimed the crown after one hour and 35 minutes.
Cilic has the ability to take the racquet out of any player’s hand with his powerful game, but he was unable to take Djokovic out of his comfort zone. The World No. 7 faced just one break point, which allowed him to play with confidence. It also helped that he had the support of the crowd, as he did throughout the week.
"Just everything really that we experienced this week was positive. The way people treated us when we landed in Israel all the way to the last moments now of our stay here has been truly wonderful and I am very grateful, because it was more than a tournament for me," Djokovic said. "It was great connections that we established with people, all of us in the team, that we will cherish and will give us positive emotions for what’s coming up."
Djokovic now leads Cilic 19-2 in their ATP Head2Head series. Thirteen of his 19 victories against the former World No. 3 have come in straight sets. Despite the loss it was a good week for Cilic, who celebrated his 34th birthday on 28 September.
“It was a fantastic week for me celebrating my birthday," Cilic said during the trophy ceremony. "I didn’t have a chance to celebrate with so [many people before], but next time I’m buying drinks everybody!”
Did You Know?
Djokovic is the fifth player to earn at least three tour-level titles this season, joining Carlos Alcaraz (5), Rafael Nadal (4), Andrey Rublev (3) and Casper Ruud (4). The Serbian will try to claim his fourth trophy of 2022 next week at the Astana Open.