Djokovic Dominates Zverev, Guarantees Return To No. 2
Novak Djokovic made a significant move in his bid to regain the World No. 1 ranking on Saturday, cruising past Alexander Zverev 6-2, 6-1 at the Rolex Shanghai Masters to guarantee a return to World No. 2.
Competing in his 1000th tour-level match (827-173), the three-time champion defeated Zverev in exactly one hour to reach his fourth final at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event (3-0). As a result of reaching the championship match, Djokovic will surpass defending champion Roger Federer for the No. 2 spot when the next edition of the ATP Rankings are published on 15 October. If Djokovic, who last held the No. 2 ranking on 11 June 2017, wins his fourth Shanghai trophy, he will move just 35 points behind No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the ATP Race To London.
"It's important [to get back to No. 2] and I am grateful that I have this achievement. I'm proud of it," said Djokovic. "Obviously I worked hard for it, and my ultimate goal is to get to No. 1 by the end of the year. I'm in a good way.
"Being No. 2 after this tournament is also a great achievement, considering the first four or five months of the year and considering I had the surgery. Where I was about four months ago and where I am today is quite an extreme opposite. I'm just cherishing that achievement and every moment spent on the court."
Djokovic, who did not face a break point en route to victory, will put an impressive unbeaten record on the line when he meets Borna Coric on Sunday, after the Croatian ousted defending champion Federer in their semi-final. The 31-year-old owns a 10-0 record in Chinese finals, having triumphed in each championship match he has contested in Beijing (6-0) and the Rolex Shanghai Masters (3-0). Djokovic also captured the 2008 Nitto ATP Finals trophy when the event was held in Shanghai.
Djokovic leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Coric 2-0, winning all four of the sets they have played..
"[Borna] is a hard worker. He's one of the hardest-working guys on the tour," said Djokovic. "He puts a lot of effort into practice. He's one of the leaders of the new generation. He's played some great tennis so far this week."
Zverev was aiming to become the first man to record 50 tour-level victories this season, but falls to 49-16 after reaching his eighth semi-final in 2018. This week, the 21-year-old became the fifth man to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals at The 02 in London from 11-18 November. Zverev joined Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Juan Martin del Potro, who had already qualified for the season-ending event in the English capital.
"I got to the semi-finals here, which I'm very happy about... I have still got big tournaments ahead of me," said Zverev. "I qualified for London, which is positive. There are still positive things. I have been in the semi-finals of a Masters [1000 event] once again. This is my fifth [semi-final] this year out of eight, and there is one more still to come."
Djokovic took a one-set lead with stunning court coverage, sacrificing court position to soak up the pressure from the German and extract errors in crucial moments. The 14-time Grand Slam champion regularly forced Zverev into uncomfortable positions and capitalised on poorly-timed double faults to break Zverev twice in the opening set. Heading into the semi-final clash, Zverev had held serve in 29 of his 30 service games (97%), saving 10 of 11 break points.
"It was a great way to celebrate the milestone [1000th match]," said Djokovic. "I thought I did everything I intended to do very well. I just made him always play an extra shot and just tried to get as many of his first serves back in play.
"He had a low percentage of first serves, in general, [through] the entire match, which definitely helped me to get into the rally where I thought maybe I have a better chance than him with the way I'm playing... From my end, I tried to just focus on what I need to do. I felt I executed it well," said Djokovic.
Djokovic's relentless desire to return every ball once again paid dividends in the second set. The US Open champion combatted Zverev's aggression with angled returns and depth on his groundstrokes to neutralise rallies, earning two further breaks of serve. The World No. 3, who began to step inside the court as the finish line approached, soon arrived at match point with his serve continuing to work at full strength. Djokovic converted his fourth match point to remain unbroken in 37 service games this week.
Did You Know?
Djokovic is currently riding a 17-match winning streak and is 26-1 since arriving at Wimbledon in July.