Paris Masters: Novak Djokovic keeps up the pressure on Rafael Nadal for World No 1 spot


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The Independent Online

When Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic in the US Open final eight weeks ago it seemed inevitable that the 27-year-old Spaniard would end the year as world No 1. Nadal has indeed reclaimed top spot in the rankings from his rival, but Djokovic is ensuring that the race will go to the wire. The Serb won his third tournament in a row on Sunday when he beat David Ferrer 7-5, 7-5 to win the Paris Masters and keep alive his chances of finishing No 1 for the third year in a row.

Djokovic comes to this week’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals knowing that he can return to the top if he successfully defends his London title, then leads Serbia to Davis Cup triumph against the Czech Republic – provided Nadal does not win more than one match this week. Although the latter scenario might seem unlikely, Nadal has faltered in recent weeks.

Since losing to Nadal in New York Djokovic has won 17 matches in a row, lifting the titles in Beijing, Shanghai and Paris. However he admitted after yesterday’s hard-fought victory over Ferrer, who was a break up in both sets, that he was feeling the effects of a long season.

“Physically I didn’t feel as good today, but in important moments, I managed to overcome the challenge,” he said. “But it’s not just me who is tired and has played many matches. All of the top players have had long seasons. You just have to try to find the strength, find a way to recover.

“I am definitely playing my best tennis this year, including the start of the year with the Australian Open and Dubai, when I had a great run. The summer was up and down, and now I’m on a very high level, even though it’s going to be three weeks now in a row for me: Paris, London, and the Davis Cup final.”

Italy brush aside Russia to win Fed Cup

Italy won a fourth Federation Cup title with a 4-0 victory over a badly under-strength Russian side as world No 7 Sara Errani cruised past Alisa Kleybanova before Flavia Pennetta and Karin Knapp won the dead doubles rubber in Cagliari yesterday.

It took Errani less than an hour to win 6-1, 6-1 against the No 183-ranked Kleybanova, who has only recently returned to the circuit following treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Pennetta and Knapp then saw off Margarita Gasparyan and Irina Khromacheva. “It’s down to a marvellous team and above all the fact we are always united,” Errani said. “We are very happy.”