Djokovic soars in Shanghai to close in on Nadal

 - Alex Sharp

Nole continued his stellar second-half of the season, lifting his 32nd Masters 1000 title.

Novak Djokovic lifts the trophy at the 2018 Shanghai Masters 1000.©Zhao Wang/AFP

“I couldn’t ask for a better scenario,” declared Mr renaissance Novak Djokovic, holding yet another trophy aloft on Sunday.

The Serbian was in sublime form in Shanghai, bolstering his recent record to an 18-match winning streak including victory in 27 or his previous 28 contests.

Jeremy Chardy, Marco Cecchinato, Kevin Anderson and Sascha Zverev were all dismissed in straight sets, before Djokovic navigated past a spirited Borna Coric 6-3 6-4 to land a fourth Shanghai Masters crown.

Three or four terrific months

Back to his all-conquering best, Djokovic has a real opportunity to usurp Rafael Nadal to finish the season as the year end No.1, something he achieved in 2011, 12, 14 and 15.

“It's phenomenal. I'm very proud of it," stated Djokovic, having surged just 215 points behind Nadal in the rankings.

"Obviously the last three, four months have been terrific for me. Not many holes in the game in general, especially this week. Everything worked perfectly.

“Taking the No.1 ranking at the end of the season would be my best achievement this year.”

Should the Wimbledon and US Open champion return top of the rankings, Djokovic would be the first player to launch from outside the Top 20 to finish No.1 in history.

Coric on course for the top


This time last year, Borna Coric fell outside the Top 50 and was lost on the tennis court after losing in the first round of Shanghai qualifying in straight sets.

Despite a promising 2018 season, the Croatian once again struggled on the Asian swing, with first hurdle exits in Shenzhen and Beijing. The 21-year-old nearly didn’t compete in Shanghai with a troublesome neck complaint.

Well, he reminded us all of his potential with an explosive run in Shanghai, which ousted Stan Wawrinka, Juan Martin Del Potro and Roger Federer.

In moments of adversity Coric demonstrated great mental fortitude, an ability to wipe the slate clean, to strike with authority and to keep taking on shots.

“I'm just happy with the whole week,” said Coric, who will climb to a career-high No.13 courtesy of a maiden Masters 1000 final. “It's awesome. I need to look from the positive sides, and I need to take only positives from this week.”

Novak Djokovic expresses rage and joy at the 2018 US Open.©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
Djokovic too dominant

A couple of loose backhands and Djokovic had wrestled away the first set from his opponent. The Serbian simply wasn’t missing.

A wayward serve and volley from Coric relinquished serve at the start of the second set and the forlorn Next Gen youngster could be forgiven for running out of ideas against the imperious Djokovic.

However, Coric kept probing, held a monster 13-minute game at 0-2 and forced Djokovic to maintain his astonishing level.

Even at three championship points down at 3-5, Coric curled in a sumptuous lob to ignite a hold. Djokovic held and took the title, but the sheer endeavour and will from the Croatian in Shanghai sent out a real signal to his rivals for the future.

Coric now evidently believes he belongs with the best, but accepts Djokovic is setting the standard on Tour.

“Novak was at another level today, it was very good lesson, I didn't enjoy it as much, to be honest,” quipped the 21-year-old. “I think I can learn a lot from this match. I'm going to look at it when I have some time off. For sure I think he played really, really unbelievable tennis.”

Delivery doing the damage for Novak

"This was definitely one of the best service weeks that I've had in my career," insisted Djokovic.

It’s hard to argue against that claim. Djokovic held all 47 service games in Shanghai with deliveries of variety, pace and precision pinning back his opponents.

In doing so, the new world No.2 is just the third player ever to win a Masters 1000 without getting broken once, following Federer (Cincinnati 2012,15) and Zverev (Madrid 2018)

Quite the milestone for Djokovic

Earlier in the week, Djokovic dismantled Zverev to clinch victory in his 1,000th tour-level match, becoming only the 12th male to reach such a career landmark.

“Big milestone, 1,000 matches,” Djokovic told his fans on Instagram. “Thank you guys very much for being there with me. I’m very proud of it. It almost looks unreal, I’m very grateful. I’m blessed to play the sport that I really love. I have a great team around me. I owe a great gratitude to my family, all the people that were close to me throughout my entire career and supported me on the way to achieve this great milestone.”

Coric has proved the younger contingent are pushing, are eager to snatch away the top titles, but in current form Djokovic seems indestructible.

The Rolex Paris Masters, followed by the ATP World Tour Finals, provides the perfect setting to bring the race for year-end No.1 to a fascinating crescendo.

Can Novak sign off a sensational turn-around in style?