SHANGHAI – Novak Djokovic will rise to number two in the world after he dismantled a shell-shocked Alexander Zverev 6-2 6-1 on Saturday to surge into the Shanghai Masters final.
Celebrating his 1 000th match in style, the 14-time Grand Slam winner was clinical as he lined up a potential title showdown on Sunday with reigning champion Roger Federer.
Top seed Federer plays 13th seed Borna Coric of Croatia in the other semi-final.
Djokovic will be up a place to second in the world – overtaking 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer – when the rankings are released on Monday.
He is desperate to take injured Rafael Nadal’s number one spot before the year is out, and on this evidence, he will.
The 31-year-old Serbian is in imperious form, and this was his 17th ATP victory in a row as he taught rising German star Zverev a harsh lesson.
Djokovic, who had elbow surgery in February but recovered to win Wimbledon and then the US Open last month, said: “Being number two after this tournament is also a great achievement, considering the first four, five months of the year and considering I had the surgery.
“And where I was about four months ago and where I am today is quite an extreme opposite. I’m just cherishing that achievement and every moment spent on the court.”
The 21-year-old Zverev made an iffy start, beginning his first service game with a double-fault.
The world number five – who beat Djokovic in their only previous meeting, last year in the Rome Masters final – recovered his poise for a time.
The first set went with serve, and some big serves at that, until Djokovic grabbed the break to go 4-2 up.
Zverev threatened to unravel and conceded the set in barely 30 minutes after landing a routine smash into the net, to gasps from the arena.
The fourth seed, who is yet to win a Grand Slam despite his undoubted talent, angrily threw his racquet at the start of the second set as Djokovic ramped up the pressure.
An increasingly exasperated Zverev issued more punishment to his racquet at 3-1 down, earning a code violation and tossing the battered piece into the crowd.
Zverev was dismissed brutally in exactly one hour. He called it a “weird” match, and said he was never close to his best.
But he had fulsome praise for Djokovic, saying: “He’s probably the best player in the world right now. He’s definitely at the highest level he’s maybe ever been, or maybe equal to it.”