Djokovic turns focus to No. 1 ranking after winning Masters Cup

Updated: November 16, 2008, 6:13 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

SHANGHAI, China -- Novak Djokovic's victory celebration turned out to be more dangerous than his opponent.

Jubilant after overwhelming Russia's Nikolay Davydenko 6-1, 7-5 in the Masters Cup final Sunday, Djokovic tossed just about everything in reach -- two rackets, wristbands and his sweat-soaked shirt -- into the cheering crowd at Qi Zhong stadium.

[+] EnlargeNovak Djokovic
Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesBy anyone's standards, Novak Djokovic had a terrific 2008 season. Among his four victories: the Australian Open and his first Masters Cup title.

Then he headed to the players box, where his coach, family and a former Miss Universe were standing and cheering. A joyous group hug ensued, and they all bounced up and down together, reveling in the Serb's first title in six months.

But when Djokovic walked away, he realized he had cut his left hand somewhere in the joyous melee. It wouldn't have been good form to drip blood on his new trophy, so he had to ask the trainer to apply a bandage before the awards ceremony.

"You don't feel the pain in the moments of happiness," he said.

The victory provided Djokovic with perfect bookends to his year. He won the Australian Open in January for his first Grand Slam.

And that cut? Not serious, and he has plenty of time to heal before starting 2009 -- and to think about how close he is to breaking the stranglehold that Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have had on the top two spots in the rankings since mid-2005.

"Certainly I believe that I have the quality to reach the top spot in the upcoming year or next couple of years, [maybe] 10 years," Djokovic said. "That is my lifetime goal that I've been always trying to achieve. But I have learned a lesson. If I pay too much attention to rankings, it doesn't go the right way."

Federer, who says it doesn't sound right to hear himself introduced as No. 2 in the world after spending a record 237 consecutive weeks at the top, is intent on taking the No. 1 spot back from Nadal.

He better watch his back.

Djokovic's victory -- his first since the Rome Masters in May -- pulled him within 10 points of Federer's total of 5,205, and the Swiss star's aching back, which caused him to pull out during the Paris Masters two weeks ago and tightened up on him here, is worrisome.

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While conceding that Nadal deserved to finish the season as the top player, Djokovic was pleased to see new younger players challenge the Spaniard and Federer.

"Now it's not only about the two players anymore," he said. "It's about five, six, seven players who are playing really well and can win against each other."

Nadal is 1,470 points ahead of Federer, but the sore knee that caused him to stay away from Shanghai also is keeping him out of next weekend's Davis Cup final between Spain and Argentina.

Still, making gains will be no easy feat since Djokovic will have to defend his titles early in the year at the Australian Open and Indian Wells.

Djokovic, who complained that his heavy schedule in 2007, his breakthrough year, left him exhausted, also seems to have found a magic elixir that helped him recover in less than 20 hours from his draining three-hour semifinal.

"The secrets of the recovery, I think I'm going to keep more [to] myself," he said, smiling. "But, yes, I was surprised in a way that I could move so well on the court today. I was a bit skeptical after a long match yesterday and a late finish."

Instead, it was Davydenko who was left looking out of sorts.

Djokovic was sharp from the start. He won the first five games, allowing Davydenko only six points.

While the fans clearly favored Djokovic at the start, they roared when Davydenko finally got on the board to pull within 5-1.

Djokovic, who said he learned from his Masters Cup debut year when he failed to win a set in three matches, had to fend off double break point in the next game before finishing off the set.

Davydenko saved two match points while serving at 3-5 in the second set. Djokovic, serving for the match, showed some nerves, double-faulting on break point.

"It's not easy, you know," Djokovic said. "There is a lot of pressure involved. It's very important after not closing out the match to hold your nerves, and that's what I did."

Serving at 5-5, Davydenko netted a forehand on break point. Djokovic didn't squander the opportunity, easily holding to finish off the match.

Davydenko lamented that he was far from his best. He got in only 47 percent of his first serves and had just 15 winners to 25 unforced errors.

"Against Djokovic you need to be perfect," he said.

Djokovic called this one of his best victories.

"I would put it in the same league as a Grand Slam because the best eight players in the world are participating here," he said. "It's a huge achievement for me."

The $625,000 and a Mercedes SUV were nice, too. He got into the car, which was brought on court, and honked the horn.

Djokovic dedicated the victory to his family, support team and fans back in Serbia, who also were celebrating Nenad Zimonjic's title with Canada's Daniel Nestor in the doubles final over brothers Mike and Bob Bryan to clinch the year-end top ranking -- a spot Jelena Jankovic wrapped up earlier on the women's side.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.

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