Djokovic tied Rafael Nadal’s record by earning his 35th title at a Masters 1000 tournament, overcoming a sluggish start to beat Milos Raonic 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the Western & Southern Open final and improve to 23-0 this season.

Novak Djokovic (SRB) poses with the trophy following his win over Milos Raonic (CAN) in the Western & Southern Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 29, 2020.
Novak Djokovic (SRB) poses with the trophy following his win over Milos Raonic (CAN) in the Western & Southern Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 29, 2020. (Reuters)

Novak Djokovic has kept his unbeaten streak in 2020 alive as he survived a terrible start to defeat Milos Raonic 1-6 6-3 6-4 in the final of the Western & Southern Open.

The 17-time Grand Slam winner fended off Raonic's mighty serve to extend his 2020 winning run to 23-0, clinching his 80th career title and equalling Rafael Nadal's record of 35 Masters 1000 wins on Saturday.

Battling through a neck injury, Djokovic struggled early in the match as he produced four double faults in the first set.

Raonic took advantage of the world number one's misfiring serve to close out the set in just 30 minutes.

"Was a bit slow at the beginning, but I thought I did well, considering the form that Milos is in," the 33-year-old Serbian told reporters.

"He's serving rockets on the court, and it's really hard to return. You need all the freshness mentally and all the focus that you can possibly have."

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'Certain tension'

Djokovic, who had beaten the 29-year-old Canadian in all 10 of their previous match-ups, came roaring back, unleashing his powerful forehand and winning four straight games in the final set.

The tournament, a final tune-up ahead of the US Open, which begins on Monday, was staged in front of empty stands at Flushing Meadows instead of its usual venue in Mason near Cincinnati, Ohio. The tournament formed part of a secure bubble that was created due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Djokovic faces Bosnia's Damir Dzumhur on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday in the first round of the Grand Slam, which is being staged without any fans in attendance this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

"There is a certain tension," said Djokovic, who was heavily criticised earlier this year after he and three other players contracted Covid-19 during an exhibition event he had organised in the Balkan region.

"Everyone is obviously being careful, but at the same time everyone needs to pay attention and follow the protocols and restrictions that are in place."

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Battle among top players over player union

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and other members of the ATP Player Council have spoken out on Saturday against a plan put forth by top-ranked Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil to start a union of sorts for men’s tennis -- bringing the sport’s politics into the spotlight just before the US Open.

Also against the proposal: the ATP men’s tour and the sport’s other governing bodies, including the WTA women’s tour and the four Grand Slam tournaments. They issued a joint statement Saturday saying: “It is a time for even greater collaboration, not division.”

Djokovic and Pospisil are seeking support for the formation of what they’re calling the Professional Tennis Players Association; they would be the co-presidents.

They said in an email to players the PTPA is needed to “promote, protect and represent the interests of its players ... and protect the future of tennis.”

Unlike athletes in major North American team sports, tennis players never have had a union to represent them and collectively bargain with ownership about revenue sharing and other matters. Each tennis player is an independent contractor.

“We are not calling for boycotts. We are not forming parallel tours,” Djokovic said after winning the Western & Southern Open on Saturday, two days before play begins at the US Open.

“Of course I would love to have Roger and Rafa on board. Of course, I would love to have all the players on board. But I understand,” Djokovic said. “I truly understand that some of them have different opinions and they don’t think the time is right.”

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Source: Reuters