|Novak Djokovic has won 34 matches in a row since December [GALLO/GETTY]
Novak Djokovic produced one of his most impressive victories this year by beating top-ranked Rafael Nadal in straight sets on clay in the Madrid Open final.
The second-ranked Djokovic wasted a 4-0 lead in the first set but recovered to win 7-5, 6-4 and cut Nadal's latest winning streak on clay at 37 matches. The Serb also beat Nadal in the final in Miami and Indian Wells this year, but this was his first victory in 10 tries over the Spaniard on his favoured surface.
Nadal's last defeat on clay came nearly two years ago against Robin Soderling at the French Open. He had won six titles on clay since, and this was only his seventh loss on the surface in 196 matches dating to 2005.
It was Djokovic's sixth title of 2011 and allowed him to surpass Bjorn Borg's 31-match unbeaten run from 1980.
Djokovic's 34 straight wins since Serbia's Davis Cup triumph in December is the eighth best of all time.
"Unbelievable," Djokovic said about keeping his streak alive.
"I stepped onto the court today believing I could win. I needed to be aggressive and it was a great match."
Earlier, Petra Kvitova won her third title of the season by beating Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the women's final.
Nadal had shared the last two finals here with Roger Federer but beat the Swiss star in three sets in their semi-final on Saturday. Djokovic once again proved too tough and avenged his loss from 2009 at the Magic Box arena, when the pair squared off in a record 4-hour plus semi-final.
Djokovic, who took home a winner's check of $849,000, raced out to 4-0 lead after Nadal netted to be broken for the second time.
Nadal broke back immediately and then pulled to within 5-4 after converting his second break point with a shot into the corner.
The Spaniard then saved three straight set points to even it before Djokovic took the set on his fourth try when his backhand took a lucky bounce on the net cord to leave Nadal no chance.
In a match full of great shots, Nadal then fired up the crowd with a spectacular between-the-legs lob to set up three break points in the first game of the second set. Nadal slammed a forehand down the line to break, but
the stubborn Djokovic bounced right back to level in the next game.
Djokovic hit a crosscourt backhand to set up three straight match points and converted the second after a long rally when Nadal sliced a backhand wide.
The 18th-ranked Petra Kvitova won the first set tiebreaker when Azarenka shot long, and secured her first Masters series trophy when Azarenka returned long on the first championship point.
Azarenka only managed to convert three of nine break chances as Kvitova defended her serve well despite a shaky service game.
"I was very nervous and perhaps that was the problem," said Kvitova, who will be the sixth Czech player to reach the top-10 on Monday when she jumps to No. 10 in the WTA rankings.
"I think it's the best tennis that I've played. I was very offensive."
Azarenka hit only 10 winners to go along with her 21 unforced errors. Perhaps sensing the missed opportunity, she broke down into tears after the loss.
"She (Kvitova) played great this week, (she) deserved it,'' said the Belorussian, who will jump one spot to a career-high of fourth in the rankings despite coming up short in her bid for a third title this season.