Djokovic Continuing Chinese Dominance In Shanghai
Novak Djokovic is peaking at just the right time, pushing to finish the season atop the ATP Rankings. And it’s only fitting that the Serbian is making his assault during a part of the year that he has long dominated.
After defeating World No. 8 Kevin Anderson in straight sets to reach the semi-finals of the Rolex Shanghai Masters on Friday, Djokovic now owns a 68-9 record in China with 10 championships and the 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medal. To put that in perspective, the Serbian has more titles in the country (10) than he has losses (9).
According to the 31-year-old, that is no coincidence. Djokovic has always loved playing in China, and it has showed in his performance.
“I really think that they are [some] of the best tennis fans in the world. I think they are very loyal. Very, very supportive. They give me a lot of love and they appreciate me being here and performing in front of them and doing well,” Djokovic said. “Of course I try to return that favour and respect them with my tennis, but also, the time that I spend with them off the court. I try to be with them as much as I can.”
It doesn’t hurt that Djokovic carried momentum into this event. Djokovic fell to No. 22 in the ATP Rankings in May, which was his lowest point since October 2006. The Serbian began his 2018 with a 6-6 record, as he struggled to recover from a right elbow injury.
But since then, he has won 37 of his past 40 matches, including titles at Wimbledon, the US Open and Cincinnati, where he became the first player to complete the Career Golden Masters, capturing the only ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy he was missing.
It’s the perfect storm for Djokovic, who can move to World No. 2 with a win in Saturday's semi-finals against Alexander Zverev. If he lifts the trophy, Djokovic would move to within 215 points of World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the ATP Rankings as the Serbian attempts to finish as year-end No. 1 for the fifth time.
“Starting basically from Queen's to this point, to this day, is where I feel like I'm playing my best, and you can see the results are showing exactly that,” Djokovic said. “In terms of percentage, whether I'm playing this week better than I have in Wimbledon or [at the] US Open, I don't think so too much. I mean, it's right up there, and I'm really glad that I don't have too big of oscillations during my matches, and I'm keeping my focus there and just being very consistent and very solid. And that's something that has helped me throughout my career to reach these heights, always trying to be solid and making the other player work twice as much for his points.”
With his victory against Anderson, Djokovic is now 189-89 against opponents inside the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings, including seven triumphs in a row against the elite group since the start of Wimbledon. Djokovic has found his stride during a part of the season that has always treated him well. And from No. 22 just months ago, he is in position to complete the biggest turnaround for a year-end No. 1 in history (currently Agassi, No. 14 on 3 May 1999).
“I think just in terms of consistency, it's there that I was lacking in the first part of the year. I mean, after surgery, I had to face some difficulties. Understanding how that invasive treatment has compromised my serve and my game in general, it compromised more than I thought it would,” Djokovic said. “So it took me three, four months to really get everything together and start feeling well, start thinking less on the court what I need to do and just letting things flow automatically as they should.”
Djokovic’s game is certainly flowing now, and he will try to keep it going in the Shanghai semi-finals against Zverev.
Did You Know?
- In addition to his push for the year-end No. 1 ATP Ranking, Djokovic is also surging toward the top spot in the ATP Race To London. If he triumphs in Shanghai, the Serbian will move to within just 35 points of No. 1 Rafael Nadal. View ATP Race To London
- This is the 10th edition of the Rolex Shanghai Masters. Djokovic is appearing for the eighth time, and he has advanced to at least the semi-finals in every participation.