SOLID RETURNS: Serbia’s Novak Djokovic hits a shot during his final against France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the China Open in Beijing yesterday. The Serb defeated Tsonga 7-6 (7/4) 6-2. Picture: REUTERS
SOLID RETURNS: Serbia’s Novak Djokovic hits a shot during his final against France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the China Open in Beijing yesterday. The Serb defeated Tsonga 7-6 (7/4) 6-2. Picture: REUTERS

WORLD No2 Novak Djokovic overcame Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France yesterday to win the China Open for a third time.

The Serb defeated the world No7 7-6 (7/4) 6-2 to maintain his unbeaten record at the ATP 500 tournament in Beijing and take the winner’s prize of $530,570.

Djokovic has won the China Open every time he has entered, his previous titles coming in 2009 and 2010 before he missed last year because of injury, and his record at the tournament now stands at 14-0.

He is pressing to beat Roger Federer to the year-end No1 spot in the world rankings and said he was "delighted" at his triumph.

"It’s an amazing feeling to win this trophy in the new stadium," he said of the National Tennis Stadium, which had yet to be built the last time he won in Beijing.

Little separated the players throughout the entire opening set. The first four games went to serve before Tsonga made a breakthrough in the fifth game, breaking Djokovic without losing a point. But the Serb broke back and the next six games went with serve to force a tie break, where Djokovic raced to a 4-1 lead.

Tsonga won two points before Djokovic spurned an opportunity while 5-3 ahead, pushing a simple forehand shot well wide. But two mistakes from the Frenchman, a double fault and a backhand half volley into the net, gave the tie break and set to Djokovic.

The first two service games of the second set were held before Djokovic broke in the third and was spurred on to take the next two games, establishing a 4-1 lead. Then he came from behind to hold serve in the sixth.

Tsonga held in the seventh before Djokovic did the same to take the set and the match in one hour and 41 minutes.

"The first set was really even, and maybe a couple of points decided the winner there," Djokovic said. "We served well when we needed to, and I think the realistic thing to expect for the first set was tie break. I managed to hold my nerves in the end. He made the double fault that probably cost him the set.

"Then when you’re getting to the second set with the set advantage, mentally it is more encouraging for you and then you try to play on that confidence run that you have. I made that early break in the second and after that I felt much more comfortable on the court."

Tsonga admitted afterwards that he had let an opportunity slip early in the tie. "It was a good match," he said. "I missed maybe something in the first set. I was a break up and I was playing well.

"But then he played solid. It was really difficult to control him. I just tried to play my game, to be aggressive. But against a player like this, for the moment my level is not high enough to beat him."

The Serb had won his previous five meetings against Tsonga, including three this year. He was ultimately too strong for the Frenchman, who was making his first China Open final appearance and only his third full match of this year’s tournament.

Tsonga, making his fourth appearance at the China Open, started with a tough three-set win over Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin before receiving a walkover against Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko. He beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-3 6-2 in the third round and won his semifinal match against Feliciano Lopez when the Spaniard, who was trailing 1-6 1-4 at the time, retired with a wrist injury.

For his part, Djokovic opened with a first-round three-set win against German qualifier Michael Berrer and followed it with a victory over Carlos Berlocq of Argentina. In the third round, the Serb dispatched Austria’s Jurgen Melzer 6-1 6-2 before defeating Florian Mayer of Germany in the semifinal 6-1 6-4.

Sapa-AFP