Djokovic, Azarenka claim Western & Southern Open titles

  • Matt Trollope

Novak Djokovic continued his unbeaten run in 2020, beating Milos Raonic in three sets to claim the Western & Southern Open title in New York on Saturday.

The world No.1 recovered to beat Raonic 1-6 6-3 6-4 to win his second Western & Southern Open title, an event normally played in Cincinnati but this year moved to Flushing Meadows to mitigate the risks presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

The victory improved his win-loss record in 2020 to 23-0, and takes his winning streak to 26 matches, dating back to last year’s Davis Cup Finals in Madrid.

Earlier on Saturday, Victoria Azarenka was crowned women’s champion when opponent Naomi Osaka withdrew before the match due to injury.

The stage had been set for a blockbuster final between two-time Grand Slam champions and former world No.1s, but the hamstring injury Osaka felt worsen in her semifinal win over Elise Mertens did not settle in time.

Victoria Azarenka poses with the trophy after winning the Western & Southern Open. It marks her first tournament title since the Miami Open in 2016. (Getty Images)

“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,” Osaka said.

This has been an emotional week and I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support.”

Despite the anti-climatic finish, it was nonetheless a brilliant week for Azarenka, who claimed her first title since the Miami Open more than four years ago.

She advanced to the final thanks to wins over Donna Vekic, Caroline Garcia, Alize Cornet, Ons Jabeur and Johanna Konta – her first singles victories in 12 months. 

“I think it's unfortunate, because I was actually really looking forward to compete against Naomi. It would have been an amazing opportunity to face her level,” said Azarenka, currently ranked 59th.

“I just have to accept what it is. I played five really good matches this week, and I think I deserve to be where I am today.”

After becoming the lowest-ranked champion in the tournament’s history, Azarenka is projected to return to the top 30 next week.

Djokovic continues winning ways

Saturday’s victory over the Canadian marked Djokovic’s second “Cincinnati” title – meaning he has now won every ATP Masters title at least twice. He is the only player to own a complete set of ATP Masters titles. 

Raonic has now lost all four Masters-level finals he has played.

However, in the early stages of the match it appeared the former world No.3 – who has slipped to 30th after battling a series of injuries since 2016 -- was on track for a breakthrough.

He took the opening set in half an hour, yet Djokovic – who had struggled with a neck injury in his opening match and illness in his semifinal win oover Roberto Bautista Agut – began to wrest control of the match.

He broke Raonic in the sixth game of the second set, and despite going down an early break in the third, won four straight games to move ahead 4-2. 

This lead proved insurmountable, and Djokovic went on to serve out the match.

“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.”

Earlier in 2020, Djokovic won all of his matches to guide Serbia to the inaugural ATP Cup title, before defending his title at the Australian Open.

He then won the Dubai Championships prior to tennis shutting down for five months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He is the top seed and tournament favourite at next week’s US Open.