The best compliment that Novak Djokovic could be paid this week was that he made it look effortless. The Serb’s return to the stratosphere of the men’s game is without doubt, and his 6-3, 6-4 dismantlement of Borna Coric in the final of the Shanghai Rolex Masters is further evidence that the 14-time Grand Slam champion is ready to monopolize the tour once again.
There are few more fitting places in the world to witness Djokovic force his opponents into submission. The Serb has won 61 of his 65 matches in China since 2009, each success bearing striking similarities to the last, but this week’s triumph was extra special: his first title in Asia since 2015.
“I have been playing really well in my career in China,” Djokovic beamed courtside. “Back in 2008 I won my first Masters Cup [here] and that opened a lot of doors for me and made me the player I am today.”
In doing so, Djokovic also becomes only the third man to win a Masters 1000 title without dropping serve all week. It is a feat which evaded him even during his years of unbridled success.
Revenge was exacted on two players who have sunk him to his lowest ebb in the last 18 months. Alexander Zverev, who claimed his first Masters 1000 crown at the expensive of the serial major winner last year, was vanquished in a minute over an hour in the semifinal. Marco Cecchinato, meanwhile, tasted a love set in their second round clash. It was a far cry from the brittle, lifeless Djokovic that was sent packing by the Italian in the quarterfinals of the French Open a mere four months ago.
His opponent today, Coric, has multiple wins over each member of the Big Four despite being a month shy of his 22nd birthday, but he is yet to notch his maiden victory over Djokovic. That is predominantly because the Serb is a more polished, battle-hardened version of the Croatian.
Coric did not relinquish a single break point against Federer in the semifinals and his attacking prowess, especially off of a traditionally shaky forehand wing, stunned the 20-time Grand Slam champion. There was to be no repeat on Sunday.
The Croatian settled nicely, finding rhythm from the back of the court and serving with equally as encouraging precision as he did against the Swiss. Djokovic was doing likewise, but it was the Serb’s ability to turn the switch which undid Coric midway through the opening set.
Djokovic carved out a break point in an eight-minute service game and broke when the Croatian guided a backhand long. Wrestling back control of the set was then a mammoth task for Coric. Djokovic closed out the opener in 38 minutes.
So often during his trophy-laden years Djokovic was able to ram home his superiority immediately after sealing the first set and he did likewise here. Bitterly for Coric, it came from an explicable error at the net.
Djokovic had four break point chances to confirm the double break but Coric displayed admirable staying power to fend off the advances of the Serb. He appeared to have been vindicated when his first break point arrived in his direction in the sixth game of set two. When that window was slammed shut it was only fitting that Djokovic would hold serve after winning the last three points.
Victory was within sight and it spoke volumes to the tenacity of Coric that he was able to stave off three championship points on his own serve to force Djokovic to close out the match. The less that is said about a trademark botched overhead from the Serb, the better, he would hope.
“He [Djokovic] was on another level today,” Coric conceded after the match. “It wasn’t fun to play against, but he’s one of the best in history.”
History continues to be shaped by Djokovic. Few enjoy clinching titles from Hawkeye reviews as Djokovic did here, but after a tumultuous two years where he made history at the French Open, he is back to his jaw dropping best