SHANGHAI: Novak Djokovic overcame a fierce challenge from Juan Martin del Potro yesterday to defend his Shanghai Masters title with a 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7/3) victory, improving his phenomenal winning streak in China to 20 matches.
The Serbian top seed looked set to wrap up the final in double-quick time after a one-sided first set but the Argentine, who conquered Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals, hit back hard to take the match into a third set tie-break.
Djokovic held his nerve in the shoot-out to win a gripping contest lasting more than two-and-a-half hours for his fifth title of the season.
The victory keeps alive his slim chances of overtaking Nadal in the battle for the year-end number one ranking.
“It was a great experience again in Shanghai with a thrilling performance from both my opponent and myself,” said Djokovic.
“I think the tournament had a fantastic final. I’m just very glad to go out as a winner from the court from such a close match.”
“I think either one of us could really take the title. I just managed to hold my emotions and I managed to believe in the victory enough in the end to play the right shots at the right time.”
Del Potro, who came into the final against the top seed brimming with confidence after his semi-final demolition of Nadal, lauded his opponent.
“The match was really close and I think Nole played unbelievable points in the tie-break,” said Del Potro, who added that poor serving
was partly to blame for his slow start.
“I was lucky in the second (set) because I broke very early,” he added. “The crowd helped me because they want to watch a longer match, for sure… I think I played another really good match. But today [Sunday] I lost.”
Djokovic, displaced this week by Nadal as world number one, now has 15 Masters titles.
Del Potro, 25, has qualified for the elite season-ending World Tour Finals in London, featuring the season’s top eight players.