China Open: Novak Djokovic hits back after loss of No 1 by halting Rafael Nadal’s run

Spaniard suffers first hard-court defeat of the year in Beijing

Rafael Nadal will return to the head of the world rankings today for the first time for more than two years, but the man he replaces served notice yesterday of his intention to do his utmost to reclaim the top spot. Nadal regained the No 1 position by reaching the final of the China Open in Beijing, only for Novak Djokovic to end his run of three successive defeats by the Spaniard. Djokovic retained his unbeaten record in four visits to the Beijing tournament by beating Nadal 6-3, 6-4.

t was a hugely impressive response by Djokovic to losing the world No 1 ranking, which he has held for the last 11 months. Nadal had won all 27 of his matches on hard courts this year and had beaten Djokovic in their previous three meetings – in the semi-finals of the French Open and Montreal Masters and in the final of the US Open – but was swept aside in just 87 minutes by an awesome display of serving power. It was Nadal’s first defeat since Wim-bledon and Djokovic’s first title since the Monte Carlo Masters in April.

Djokovic, who dropped only seven points on his serve in the whole match, said his game had benefited from playing doubles alongside Stanislas Wawrinka earlier in the week. He added: “I also showed emotional stability. In the crucial moments I managed to stay tough and not drop my concentration, which I think I did in both Montreal and the US Open. I learned my lesson.

“It was very tough to lose those close matches against Rafa on hard courts, especially the last one in the US Open final. I needed this win today. I really wanted to get my hands on the trophy and win against Nadal, who has been the best player so far in 2013.”

Nadal said Djokovic had simply been too good for him. “I didn’t see a way to stop him this afternoon,” the Spaniard said. “I didn’t play my best match, but he played at a very high level with his serve. I was not able to have any chance when I was returning during the whole match.

“He had the ball staying very low. It was very difficult to create spin on this ball. He was able to hit all the balls where he wanted to hit them. When that’s happening against a player like Novak, you are dead. You don’t have a chance.”

It was only the fourth defeat – the second of them at the hands of Djokovic – since Nadal began his extraordinary comeback in February after seven months off the court with a knee injury.

He has won 10 titles and failed to reach the final in only one of the 14 tournaments he has played this year. The exception was Wimbledon, where he lost in the first round.

Nadal looks certain to retain the No 1 position for a good while. Because of his lay-off, he has no ranking points to defend until February, which means that every match he wins will add to his points total.

Djokovic, in contrast, will be hard pushed not to drop points in the coming months as he is the reigning champion at three major events. The 26-year-old Serb will be defending 1,000 points at this week’s Shanghai Rolex Masters, 1,500 points at next month’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and 2,000 points at the Australian Open in January.

However, Nadal insisted: “I need to keep playing well to try to finish No 1 at the end of the season, but that’s not something that worries me much today. I’ve come back to the No 1 position, something that I really thought that I would never have the chance to do. I am there and it’s something special for me.”

Serena Williams claimed her 10th singles trophy of the year when she beat Jelena Jankovic 6-2, 6-2 in the women’s final in Beijing. The world  No 1 has earned more than $9m (£5.6m) in prize money in a season in which she has already won 73 matches.

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test