BELGRADE, Serbia // World No 2 Novak Djokovic took his season's win-loss record to 27-0 last night when he defeated Spain's Feliciano Lopez 7-6, 6-2 to win the Serbia Open clay-court title.
Top seed Djokovic's fifth title of 2011 adds to his victories at the Australian Open, Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Indian Wells and Miami.
The 23-year-old, who also won the Belgrade title in 2009, now stands just two wins away from equalling Ivan Lendl's record of a 29-0 winning season start, set in 1986.
In a final interrupted by rain, the Australian Open champion was made to battle for 73 minutes to wrap up the first set on a tie-break after saving six break points in all.
"You people make it worth to come back to this city and play and hope for the victories," said Djokovic, who led Serbia's Davis Cup team to its first ever victory last year.
Lopez failed to take advantage of seven break points during the match. He had the first two early in the first set at 2-2, sending the ball into the net and allowing Djokovic to win the game with an ace and a deep forehand into the corner.
Lopez had another chance to break in the first set at 4-4 but sent the ball out, and Djokovic comfortably won the tie-breaker.
"I had a dream last night that I will be a hero and the first to beat him this year, but I realised it was very hard," Lopez said.
Djokovic broke twice in the second set and conceded no points in the final game. The Serbian has, in fact, won his past 29 matches, including the Davis Cup win, with his last defeat coming against Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals in November.
World No 37 Lopez hit form on his debut in Belgrade, upsetting two seeded players in No 8 Juan Monaco and fourth seed Albert Montanes, as well as former world No 5 Fernando Gonzalez, to reach his seventh career final.
The 29-year-old Madrid left-hander came into Belgrade on the back of a quarter-final showing in Barcelona, but in his preceding nine tour-level tournaments he had won back-to-back matches just once.