It was a bitter beginning for the world's new number one player. Rafael Nadal, who has taken back the tennis throne from Novak Djokovic in the new ATP rankings published on Monday, was nevertheless defeated by his rival at the China Open final in Beijing on Sunday, losing 6-3, 6-4 to the Serb.
There was never any question that Djokovic had the upper hand in Beijing. He managed to break the Spaniard's service game early and never looked back. His powerful serve helped him move quickly up to 5-2 after winning 16 points out of 17. The 27-year-old from Mallorca did not get a chance at a single break point, and lost his first match on a hard court after a run of 26 straight victories.
"Novak played much better than me today, he deserves the win," said Nadal after the game, ruling out any pain in his left knee, which he had slammed into the court during the quarter finals.
"You deserve it"
For his part, the four-time champion at the China Open told Nadal that "you deserve to be number one. You were the best player so far in 2013. Nobody can question that."
This year, the Spaniard won 65 out of his 69 matches. By reaching the China final, he returns to the top of the men's ranking after losing the title in July 2011. "It's like a gift," said Nadal about his comeback.
Both players, who have faced off the most times in the history of the sport (38), could meet again as early as next week at the Masters 1000 finals in Shanghai.