at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Beijing – Novak Djokovic played down his chances of making a quick return to world No 1 despite an emphatic victory in Beijing which gave him a shot at supplanting Roger Federer at this week's Shanghai Masters.
The Serb, second in the rankings and breathing down Federer's neck, whipped France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 for his third title at the China Open, an event at which he has never been beaten.
Afterwards Djokovic admitted retaking the top ranking, which he occupied for nearly a year until being deposed by Federer in June, was uppermost in his thoughts.
“That's the target,” said the 25-year-old, owner of five Grand Slam titles including this year's Australian Open, who celebrated his win with a “Gangnam Style” dance with ball boys and ball girls on court.
Victory in Sunday's Shanghai Masters final would be enough to re-crown Djokovic as No 1, if Federer fails to reach the quarter-finals.
But the Serb remained cautious, insisting the rankings battle remains “quite open”. Federer was not in action this week.
“This (win) will definitely help me in that race, but it's still quite open,” Djokovic said.
“There are still tournaments to come, big ones. Shanghai, obviously the first 1000 event (this week), everybody is playing there except (Rafael) Nadal.
“I want to try to get as far as I can in the tournament, obviously taking one match at a time as I always do.”
Sunday's win, Djokovic's fourth title of the year, earned him $530,570 and 500 rankings points, and stretched his record to 14-0 at the China Open – which he won in 2009 and 2010 but missed last year because of injury.
Not surprisingly, he said he would be back next year.
“I am planning to come back to the China Open next year, Djokovic said after his triumph.
“It's been one of my most successful tournaments. This is where I love to play. I love the conditions and I have lots of support from the fans who are very loyal and very nice.”
Djokovic opened with a three-set win against German qualifier Michael Berrer in the first round, and followed it with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Carlos Berlocq of Argentina.
In the third round, the Serb dispatched Austria's Jurgen Melzer 6-1, 6-2, and he then beat Florian Mayer of Germany 6-1, 6-4 to reach the final.
Following his victory over Tsonga, Djokovic delighted the crowd with a rendition of the famed horse-riding dance from South Korean pop hit “Gangnam Style”.
And fans may be in for another treat this week if Djokovic follows up his Beijing exploits with another victory.
“The song is quite catchy, so I might do it again in Shanghai. It depends,” he said.
In Shanghai, Djokovic has Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and Janko Tipsarevic in his side of the draw, with Federer and Andy Murray the main threats in the other half. – Sapa-AFP