KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Novak Djokovic whacked the
tournament's final shot for a winner, then collapsed on his back,
sprawled at the baseline.
Djokovic rose to embrace his opponent and climbed into the
stands to hug his parents. He returned to the court and threw his
shirt and racket to the cheering crowd.
The kid plays with flair and celebrates the same way.
Djokovic succeeded where Roger Federer failed, beating qualifier
Guillermo Canas 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 Sunday to win the Sony Ericsson Open.
Canas upset the top-ranked Federer twice last month, including
in the fourth round Tuesday. But the 29-year-old Argentine's
relentless baseline game failed to faze the 19-year-old Djokovic,
who dominated with his versatile shotmaking and held every service
"I hope this is only the start," said Djokovic, runner-up at
Indian Wells, Calif., two weeks ago. "I was always trying to
compare myself to the best players in the world, because that's
what I want to be. Right now I feel like probably for the first
time in my career I'm on that level, that I deserve to be one of
the three best players in the world."
Seeded 10th, Djokovic will improve to a career-high No. 7 in the
rankings Monday. With his first ATP Masters Series title, the
slender Serb became the youngest men's champion in the tournament's
It was the second title of the season for Djokovic and
fourth of his young career.
"Right now I feel like probably for the first time in my career I'm on that level, that I deserve to be one of the three best players in the world."
-- Novak Djokovic
Djokovic won every set he played -- the first time the Key
Biscayne men's champion has done that since Ivan Lendl in 1989.
"Tennis has a new star today," tournament chairman Butch
Buchholz said. "He's going to be around."
Djokovic has already put Serbia back on the tennis map. The
nation touts a modest tennis tradition aside from Monica Seles, a
nine-time Grand Slam champion who was in the crowd Sunday.
"I'm very happy about that because she was one of my idols when
I was young," Djokovic said.
The crowd roared when Djokovic skipped a forehand winner off the
baseline on match point, and his exuberant celebration kept the
cheers coming. Once he was shirtless, he waved his racket in
several directions before throwing it to a delighted young woman in
the front row.
"It was a very emotional moment for me," Djokovic said. "I
was thinking even to put away my shoes and shorts and everything.
But I said, OK, television is here, so I'll keep that."
Canas applauded the young champion.
"He's a great player," Canas said. "If he continues like
this, he's going to be one of the top three or four players very,
Canas can take consolation in a career resurgence. Ranked as
high as eighth before serving a 15-month doping suspension that
ended last summer, he was 143rd at the start of the year but will
climb to about 31st.
"I'm very happy now, but hopefully more happy moments are going
to come for me," Canas said. "Now everybody knows I'm back on the
"He has been through a tough period," Djokovic said. "He came
back. Well done. He's a great player."
Most of the accolades, however, went to Djokovic. He mixed pace,
spins and angles so well that some of his shots were beyond reach
even for Canas, whose forte is fetching. The Serb's repertoire
ranged from 130 mph serves to feathery drop shots, including one to
end the match's longest game.
That game in the second set lasted 20 minutes and 22 points and
included an important replay reversal. Djokovic hit a shot ruled
wide that would have given Canas a service break for 3-all, but the
review led the umpire to order the point replayed.
Djokovic saved two more break points in the game, including one
by outlasting Canas in a 37-shot rally, and eventually held for
"It was really long, and really important for me to win that
game," Djokovic said. "It was probably a turning point. It's very
important to stay very calm and mentally strong. I managed to do
Djokovic faced only two other break points and erased them. He
lost serve just once in 59 games in the tournament.
Even as he pulled away, Djokovic's teenage temper occasionally
showed. He twice threw his racket and once slammed a ball into the
net. He hardly had cause for anger, however, committing only 30
unforced errors while hitting 44 winners.
The sunny weather and grinding rallies seemed to favor Canas,
the stockier, more physical player. But he began to clutch his left
hamstring between points and received a massage from a trainer in
the third set.
"I'm old," Canas later said with a laugh. "All my body
While he declined to blame the hamstring injury as a factor in
his loss, he appeared to favor the leg when he double-faulted in
his final service game to fall behind 5-4.
Djokovic wavered serving for the match with his lone
double-fault and a wild forehand, but smacked confident strokes on
the final two points for winners -- and the championship.
"On the last point I said, 'I'm going for the forehand, I don't
care. If I make a mistake, I'll break my racket.' And then I just
fell down to the ground. I was very happy."
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.