WASHINGTON, October 14, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
There’s no doubt about it: Novak Djokovic is not only the hottest professional tennis player on the ATP World Tour, he’s the hottest on the entire planet. Make no mistake, the Serbian, who has won four titles in the second half of 2018 – Wimbledon, the Western & Southern Open, the U.S. Open and now the Rolex Shanghai Masters – is firing on all cylinders.
By winning convincingly and comprehensively over an up-and-coming Borna Coric, 6-3, 6-4, on Sunday evening in Shanghai, which was his 32nd ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title, Djokovic has moved to within 215 points of No. 1 in the world, a ranking currently held by Rafael Nadal. Following a week in which he dominated Shanghai from start to finish, including wins over Jeremy Chardy, Marco Cecchinato, Kevin Anderson and Alexander Zverev – all in straight sets – Djokovic has shot ahead of Roger Federer into the No. 2 position in the ATP Rankings.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) 14. Oktober 2018
“It’s phenomenal,” said the second-seeded Djokovic during the trophy presentation, summing his feelings after winning Shanghai for the fourth time in his career. “I’m very proud of it.”
Against Coric, Djokovic fired seven aces, won all but nine points on his serve – including 91 percent (29 of 32) of his first-serve points – and saved the only break-point he faced. He wrapped up the title in one hour and 36 minutes.
“Not many holes in the game in general, especially this week. Everything worked perfectly,” Djokovic was quoted as saying by the ATP World Tour website.
With just the Paris Masters in two weeks and the Nitto ATP Finals in London next month remaining on his schedule, Djokovic is within close range of attaining the World No. 1 ranking before the end of the season. He’s 35 points behind Nadal in this season’s ATP Race to London standings. He can also finish at the top of the year-end ATP Rankings for the fifth time in his career. It would be a fitting conclusion to what has transformed into a very memorable season for the affable 31-year-old Djokovic. Not bad when you consider that Djokovic was ranked outside the Top 20 (No. 22) as recently as May. He could become the first player to go outside the Top 20 and finish the year ranked No. 1 in the same season in the history of the ATP Rankings.
As he lifted his fourth Rolex Shanghai Masters trophy and delighted the crowd by saying a few words in Chinese during his acceptance speech, here’s a few statistics worth considering about what Djokovic has accomplished this season: He’s won 18 consecutive matches, and 27 of his last 28 going back to the start of Wimbledon. Through Madrid, he was 6-6. Since Madrid, he’s 39-4.
“Obviously, the last three, four months have been terrific for me,” said Djokovic.
During his run to the Shanghai title, Djokovic’s serve was not broken throughout 47 service games. He became just the third player ever to win a Masters 1000 tournament without getting broken a single time. Djokovic raised his Masters 1000 win-loss record this season to 20-6, second-best behind Zverev’s 22-7, and his 2018 win-loss record improved to 45-10 (including 23-4 on hard courts).
A year ago, Djokovic couldn’t even play tennis. Now, as BBC5 Live’s David Law tweeted after Djokovic’s victory on Sunday, “It’s hard to see how people beat him at the tournament’s that matter to him.
“Aside from his fitness and form, the third and fourth key elements Djokovic has recovered over the last few months are his desire and preparedness to go all out, and his aura.”