Novak Djokovic overcame Rafael Nadal of Spain in straight sets yesterday to win the China Open for the fourth time in five years.
The Serb was at his ruthless best to defeat Nadal 6-3, 6-4, a day before he is set to be unseated at the top of the world rankings by the No. 2 Spaniard.
The result was Nadal’s first hardcourt loss of the season.
The second seed in Beijing only showed rare glimpses of the form that has seen him win 10 titles this year, with Djokovic racing to a 3-0 lead in the first ten minutes.
Top seed Djokovic then powered ahead, showing formidable power-hitting to take the first set 25 minutes later.
The pair displayed incredible movement in the opening game of the second set, engaging in quickfire net-play, much to the delight of the crowd.
Nadal came out on top of that duel, winning the point, but Djokovic took the game to break serve.
Djokovic then kept his nerve, holding serve until the conclusion of the match after one hour and 27 minutes.
The victory will be a sweet for Djokovic, who is spending his 101st week at No. 1, and will have his current streak of 48 weeks ended today when the ATP announce its new rankings with Nadal at the top.
The Spaniard only needed to make the final to unseat him.
After the match, Djokovic congratulated the Spaniard on his achievement.
“I have to say congratulations to Rafael because he deserves definitely to be No. 1 of the world this year with the season that he has had,” he said in an interview on court.
“He is the best player so far in 2013, there is no question about it,” Djokovic said.
“I am just very happy to be able to continue to play well and hopefully I can maintain the rhythm,” he said.
Djokovic has been in dominating form at the China Open, where he has an unbeaten run stretching back to 2009. He did not attend in 2011.
However, Nadal has had the beating of Djokovic this season, coming out on top in the semi-finals at Roland Garros and in last month’s final at the US Open, as well as the Canada Masters.
In the women’s tournament, Serena Williams won her 10th title of the year with a convincing 6-2, 6-2 victory over world No. 11 Jelena Jankovic.
The Serb only briefly threatened her opponent, breaking Williams’ serve in the third game of the second set.
However, any hope she had was quickly extinguished by the top seed in Beijing, who won the set’s remaining games.
The 32-year-old US power hitter has already secured the year-end world No. 1 ranking, and last month became the first woman to surpass US$9 million in prize money in a single season.
Williams last claimed the China Open in 2004, while Jankovic won the tournament in 2008.
Germany’s Florian Mayer enjoyed a comfortable win against Chinese wild-card Wu Di on the opening day of the Shanghai Masters yesterday, while Argentina’s Carlos Berlocq also progressed to the second round.
World No. 41 Mayer broke his 22-year-old opponent — ranked more than 200 places below him — twice in the first set at the Qizhong stadium. Another break early in the second set proved decisive as he eased to a 6-3, 6-3 victory in 68 minutes.
Berlocq, ranked 45th, recovered from losing the first set to beat Russian Dmitry Tursunov 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
The Czech Republic’s Lukas Rosol earlier became the first player to make it to the second round, fighting back from a second-set slump to beat Julien Benneteau of France 6-3, 1-6, 6-3.
Top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic has a first-round bye along with the other top eight seeds including Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Roger Federer.
Fifth seed Federer, desperate for points as he tries to reach the season-ending World Tour Finals in London, faces the daunting prospect of a quarterfinal with Djokovic. He must first get past either former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt or Italy’s Andreas Seppi.
“It’s a difficult first match for me. It would be great to play Lleyton,” Federer said. “We go back a long way and I remember playing him in Shanghai when the first Masters Cup was here, he beat me in the semifinals and went on to win the tournament. We have had some amazing matches. Even if I play Seppi, that will also be tough.”
Djokovic will meet Davis Cup teammate Janko Tipsarevic or Spain’s Marcel Granollers in his opener, while second seed Nadal will expect to meet Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine.
Colombia’s Alejandro Falla defeated Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun 6-4, 6-3 in the qualifying tournament yesterday.