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London - Novak Djokovic celebrated his return to the top of the world rankings with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the ATP Tour Finals at London's O2 Arena on Monday.
Although Djokovic has only one Grand Slam title to his name this year, at the Australian Open back in January, it has still been another fine year for the Serb, who replaced Roger Federer as world number one on Monday after a brief spell playing second fiddle to the Swiss star.
Only David Ferrer has been able to equal Djokovic's impressive total of 71 match wins during the course of 2012 and, for the second year in a row, the Serb will finish the season on top of the rankings thanks to the remarkable consistency which has seen him reach the semi-finals or better in 14 of his 16 tournaments.
One of Djokovic's few failures came at the Paris Masters last week when he lost in the early stages to Sam Querrey - the first time the Serb had been beaten indoors this year - but he was back in the groove against French seventh seed Tsonga in his opening Group A tie at the season-ending event.
“It's a pleasure to play here once again. I was really looking forward to it because we always enjoy the atmosphere,” Djokovic said.
“It's the last tournament of the year so we both wanted to win. It means a lot. Especially here, there are no easy matches and no favourites.
“You just want to do your best and give the crowd something to cheer about.”
After taking his poodle Pierre for a walk around the corridors of the O2 Arena in a slightly bizarre pre-match warm-up, Djokovic initially looked like he could have done with more conventional preparation.
Tsonga, watched by new Australian coach Roger Rasheed, had a break point in the opening game, but a fortunate net cord got Djokovic out of trouble, and the Frenchman couldn't convert his second chance to break when he missed a forehand at 4-3.
With neither man able to get control, a tie-break was the only way to separate them and it was Djokovic, showing his priceless knack of playing his best on the big points, who took it on his second set point.
Djokovic was more like himself in the second set and went on the attack in the first game as he looked to press home his advantage.
Tsonga produced a spectacular smash on the run to save one break point, but the 2008 Tour Finals champion wouldn't be denied and landed the break when the Frenchman drove a forehand wildly off-target.
Djokovic had beaten Tsonga in their last six meetings, including their most recent encounter in the Beijing final, and there was no way back for the Frenchman this time either as the Serb closed out the win on his first match point.
US Open champion Andy Murray beat Tomas Berdych 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the day's other Group A match. - Sapa-AFP