Novak Djokovic is starting to make another late-season surge. The Serb backed up his US Open final last month by capturing the China Open in Beijing today defeating David Ferrer 6-2, 6-4 in a rain-delayed final.
The 18th title of his career – second of 2010 – gives Djokovic the third berth into the ATP Finals next month in London, at it puts him in striking distance of Roger Federer for the year-end No. 2 ranking. In 2010 points only, the Swiss is ahead of Novak by about 850 points, a deficit Djokovic could make up with a title in Shanghai.
“[I'm] just happy to win another tournament and make my record here in Beijing even better,” said Djokovic who is a perfect 9-0 in Beijing after back-to-back title. “It’s definitely one of the most successful tournaments in my career.”
And credit to Novak. It’s been quite a turnaround since that lackluster, disheartening loss to Andy Roddick at Cincinnati in August followed by an uphill climb down 2-1 in sets on a hot day against countryman Viktor Troicki in the US Open first round.
But Djokovic has really stepped up and gained strength since that low point, winning 10 of his last 11 matches, his only loss coming to Rafael Nadal in the US Open final.
So might this period be a turning point in Djokovic’s career? Maybe. At just 23 still, he’s arguably yet to hit his prime – most players peak 24-25 – and with health issues behind him (maybe) a year from now he might just have multiple Grand Slam titles and an even higher ranking?
His co-winner in Beijing is somewhat the contrast. While Djokovic has a Major in hand, Wozniacki does not. But the Dane now has something Djokovic has yet to achieve, the No. 1 ranking.
Wozniacki moved up to the top spot earlier in the week following a third round win over Petra Kvitova. Today, she backed it up beating World No. 4 Vera Zvonareva for her sixth title of 2010 and her first win over a Top 5 player in what seems to be forever.
“I came here wanting to do a good result. I knew I could become No.1 if I won a few rounds,” Wozniacki said. “I’m very happy how everything has turned out.”
While Wozniacki may very well be the most under-qualified No. 1 in history (based on her current 12-month Slam results), who else is deserving of No. 1 on the WTA? Serena Williams? She doesn’t play and seems to lack interest. Kim Clijsters? Ditto. Zvonareva? C’mon! So congrats to Wozniacki for showing up on the WTA.
With Beijing now out of the way, the focus is fully on the Shanghai Masters which began last night. JW Tsonga (beat Feliciano Lopez!) and Jurgen Melzer both won first round matches while Fernando Verdasco continues to have his struggles dropping woefully to Thiemo de Bakker 7-6, 7-5. De Bakker’s a good player but Verdasco’s a class above. Except the Spaniard’s may be out of fuel after a long year and a heavy schedule. The fast-fading Fernando has lost four straight matches all in straight sets since that electrifying five-set win over Ferrer at the US Open.
Stan Wawrinka collected a good win beating the hot Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-1. Wawrinka now gets Nadal in the second round on Wednesday.
Tonight, Roddick is the feature match against Phil Kohlschreiber. We remember Phil beating Roddick a few years ago in five sets at the Australian Open. Roddick got revenge by taking down the German in four in a “mono match” at Wimbledon this year.
Roddick leads 3-1 in their head-to-head and he gets the edge here, but the more I watch of Andy the more I see his big serves coming back in the court. And I just don’t think he can play defensively against an aggressive baseline like Kohlschreiber, so it will be an interesting match that could go either way.
Also tonight in Shanghai, which is 12 hours ahead of East Coast time, Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer, Marin Cilic and Gael Monfils are all in action. And in what could be a cracker of contest, Ernests Gulbis and Richard Gasquet hook up.
Matches are on all week on the Tennis Channel.
SHANGHAI TUESDAY SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 2:00 pm
P Kohlschreiber (GER) vs  A Roddick (USA)
I Ljubicic (CRO) vs [WC] Z Zhang (CHN)
Not Before 6:00 PM
M Llodra (FRA) vs  D Ferrer (ESP)
Not Before 8:00 PM
 T Berdych (CZE) vs T Robredo (ESP)
GRANDSTAND start 2:00 pm
A Golubev (KAZ) vs J Tipsarevic (SRB)
 G Monfils (FRA) vs [Q] B Becker (GER)
 M Cilic (CRO) vs A Seppi (ITA)
Not Before 6:00 PM
E Gulbis (LAT) vs R Gasquet (FRA)
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